The right to live in your own home without fear for your safety, privacy, or property is a fundamental and inalienable human right—set down in writing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
“(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”
But what happens when this right itself endangers a loved one? What is the proper action to take when age or illness makes it unsafe for a loved one to live safely in their home?
When is it right and necessary for someone to step in to ensure the continued wellbeing of a loved one?
This is a question that the friends and family of the some 800,000 Americans with Alzheimer’s disease who live alone must wrestle with.
Is it safe for my loved one to live at home?
Even people with early-stage Alzheimer’s can experience memory loss and other cognitive impairments that disrupt daily life, but impairment worsens as the disease progresses and disrupted their ability to function at home by themselves:
- Disorientation can cause them to wander and become lost or even injured.
- Your loved one can need an increased amount of help performing the most basic activities of everyday life—from getting dressed to preparing and eating meals.
- Compromised problems solving abilities make it difficult to make good judgments.
Despite this kind of decline, most older adults still prefer to live in their own homes, and even if they live alone having dementia or some other cognitive impairment does not automatically rule out the option of living at home. With the right kind of support, a senior with mild dementia or early-stage Alzheimer’s can live quite safely at home.
However, it is an unfortunate fact that many in-home care services are, as yet, not equipped to provide the kind of 24-hour care and assistance needed by people with progressive dementia or mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Learn to Recognize the Warning Signs
If your loved one has a progressive form of dementia, like Alzheimer’s, there will come a time when it is no longer safe for them to live alone. But as progression of the disease varies with the individual, it can be easy to miss the signs that indicate they may need help.
If you notice any of these 6 warning signs, it may be time to talk to your loved one about getting outside care or moving into assisted living with memory care support services:
- Decline in personal cleanliness or hygiene
- Trouble managing medications, especially confusion about prescriptions
- Any change in personality—disinterest in favorite activities, irritability or anxiety
- Withdrawal from social activities like visiting with friends or a break from usual patterns like going to church
- Trouble performing daily housekeeping tasks like laundry, paying bills, or simple repairs like changing a light bulb
- Unexplained weight loss, especially if there is spoiled food in the fridge or a shortage of food in the home
How do I convince a loved one to get help?
Peggy Slade-Sowders, director of our geriatric care management program Living Well Senior Solutions, suggests that adult children start talking to their parents early and often. “It can take a while for older adults to come to the realization that they need outside care or help,” she says.
Be sensitive. Don’t tell them what needs to happen, instead, offer suggestions.
Recognize that your parent or other loved one will want to stay independent, so don’t take the choice away from them. Allow them to remain in control of as many aspects of the decision-making as possible.