Living Alone With Dementia

Many people with dementia can live alone for some time in the earlier stages.  However, regularly assess possible risks to prevent dangerous accidents or  injuries. Below are things to consider if your care recipient lives alone. Although  not all of these risks may apply right now, they will become risks over time.  Monitor your care recipient to determine what their risks are. 

Woman driving elderly man


Possible Risks 

  • Car accidents  
  • Injury to themselves or others (passengers, pedestrians, drivers) 
  • Death 
  • Being sued by others in an accident 

Make It Safer 

  • Start conversations early. Say what you’ve observed, why you’re concerned,  and make a plan.  
  • Explore options like community driver services, buses, taxis, rides from family  and friends, and delivery services.  
  • Talk to their doctor about organizing an assessment of their driving abilities.
  • Suggest they practice sitting as a passenger more often as a chance to relax  and enjoy the scenery. 
  • Have a backup plan. If you’ve exhausted all options, take away keys or provide  a fake set. You can also sell the car or disable it.  


Possible Risks 

  • Leaving the stove, oven, or gas knobs on 
  • Putting something on a burner that shouldn’t go there 
  • Burns from hot water or not using oven mitts 
  • Falling trying to reach something on a high shelf 
  • Injury from sharp objects like knives or can openers 

Make It Safer 

  • Use automatic shut-off appliances or plugs or kitchen timers that go off when  food is ready. 
  • Purchase smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 
  • Adjust hot water temperature so it only rises to a certain point to avoid burns.
  • Talk to a professional. Ask the gas company how to shut off the gas line that  goes to the oven and stove, and use the microwave instead.
  • Rearrange the kitchen so everything is within easy reach.
  • Cook together sometimes so you can see what they’re having trouble with.


Possible Risks 

  • Not eating enough 
  • Not getting enough nourishment 

Make It Safer 

  • Buy pre-made meals or use meal delivery services.
  • Have groceries delivered.


Possible Risks 

  • Forgetting to take, or when to take, medications 
  • Forgetting to refill prescriptions 
  • Mixing up medications (taking morning medications at night) 
  • Organization mistakes (putting too many pills in a pillbox) 

Make It Safer 

  • Have medications delivered. They won’t need to remember to refill prescriptions.
  • Use equipment. Blister packs from the pharmacy, pill boxes, and automated  pill dispensers can help track medication doses. Automated pill dispensers can  be locked until the next dose.
  • Provide assistance. Give in-person or phone call reminders, or set an alarm  to go off during medication times. You can also organize non-medical home  health services for ongoing support. 
Man taking medications

Frauds & Scams

Possible Risks 

  • Email and telephone scams  
  • Losing money 
  • Losing financial or personal information 
  • Getting their identity stolen  

Make It Safer 

  • Keep personal documents in a safe place where your care recipient can’t  access them easily, like a locked safe. For example, social insurance and  medicare numbers. 
  • Add protection like blocking strange phone numbers or emails; adding  browser extensions that block unsafe or unsecured websites; running  antivirus software regularly; updating passwords; and purchasing identity  theft protection.  
  • Remind them not to respond to messages, emails, or phone calls from people  they don’t know, and to tell you if they get any. Say the bank or government  will never call or email to ask for their password or account information. Leave  sticky notes to remind them. 


Possible Risks  

  • Getting lost 
  • Falling 
  • Becoming exhausted 
  • Getting too hot or cold 

Make It Safer 

  • Reduce home hazards. Reduce clutter and clear pathways to avoid  tripping hazards. 
  • Ensure lights around the home (and outside) are bright enough for them to  see. Hang motion-sensor lights low on paths they might navigate at night, like  from the bedroom to the bathroom.  
  • Use a GPS tracker to help locate them. For example, smartphones,  smartwatches, specialized locator devices, and personalized emergency  response systems.  
  • Use a monitoring device to see what they’re doing. For example, cameras,  door chimes, home motion sensors, and bathroom humidity sensors. 


Possible Risks 

  • Falling and unable to call for help 
  • Getting injured and unable to get up 

Make It Safer 

  • Get a home safety assessment to reduce falls risks.
  • Reduce clutter like throw rugs, shoes, clothes, or pet toys.
  • Use fall alert devices like smart watches or emergency alert pieces that can  call a caregiver or 911 if they fall.

Additional Resources

  • Elderly woman driving

    Care Chat: Dementia & Driving

  • Caregiver helping with aggressive behavior

    Dementia and Aggressive Behavior

  • Caregiver assisting senior man out of bed

    Dementia and Skills for Responding to Communication Changes

  • Two elderly men talking

    Dementia Caregiver Checklist