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Living alone with dementia - Fact Sheet

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Living alone with dementia - Fact Sheet

Practical tips from Alzheimer's Association Queensland

Many older people choose to remain living in their own home alone. This decision is based on a number of reasons.

Most who make this decision do so to remain independent. A few have no family to whom they can turn for assistance, while others simply do not wish to live with their family or believe it will make life difficult for all concerned.

Residential care or nursing home placement is certainly something few, if any of us, ever wish to consider for ourselves. You have the right to stay in your own home if you wish.

For many, independence is of greater priority than physical safety. Since Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are progressive diseases, the physical and behavioural symptoms experienced will gradually get worse over time. It is therefore important to plan in advance for any assistance you may need to help maintain your independence.

Consider the following suggestions:

  • Ensure work, financial, legal and health matters are addressed as soon as possible after receiving your diagnosis. If left until late in the disease, the power to make decisions about these matters may be taken away from you.
  • Inform your bank if you have difficulties with keeping track of your accounts, bill payments and other banking needs. They may provide special services for people with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Arrange for direct payments of Social Security cheques, pensions and the like, into your bank account.
  • Stay in close contact with your doctor and specialist for regular reviews of your medical situation. There are other treatable illnesses which, if left untreated, can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia.
  • Seek information about getting assistance in the home with housekeeping, general home maintenance, transportation and home nursing.
  • Plan for home meal deliveries if available in your area.
  • Arrange regular home maintenance checks e.g. through Home Assist Secure.
  • Have a smoke alarm fitted and check it regularly.
  • Leave a set of keys to your house with a trusted neighbour.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers, in large print, next to the phone.
  • Ask a friend or relative to assist in arranging your clothes and drawers to make it easier for you to find what you need to get dressed.
  • Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their content.
  • Arrange for a daily visit or telephone contact by friends, relatives or a community worker to remind you of meal times, appointments or to take your medications.
  • Label photos with the names of those you see most often.
  • Mark days off on a calendar to keep track of time. Maintain your daily routines wherever possible.


Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 50% to 60% of all cases. It destroys brain cells and nerves disrupting the transmitters which carry messages in the brain, particularly those responsible for storing memories. It was first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1907. He wrote of a physical disease in which brain cells are destroyed. The appearance of this destruction is referred to as "plaques and tangles".

During the course of Alzheimer's disease, nerve cells die in particular regions of the brain. The brain shrinks as gaps develop in the temporal lobe and hippocampus, which are responsible for storing and retrieving new information. This in turn affects people's ability to remember, speak, think and make decisions. The production of certain chemicals in the brain, such as acetylcholine is also affected. It is not known what causes nerve cells to die.

References and further information

Reproduced with permission of Alzheimers Association Queensland. Visit www.alzheimersonline.org for a wide range of fact sheets and their support services or call their free Helpline on 1800 639 331.

 

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