|A person's right to dignity and need for independence complicate the decisions surrounding home safety and supervision. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are likely to be convinced that it is safe to be alone long after it has clearly become unsafe-even after several accidents or injuries have occurred.
Always ask yourself: Is it still harmless for my loved one to be alone? If it is, these steps can help:
Provide reassurance before you leave the house, since being alone can cause anxiety and fear for those with dementia.
Heightened anxiety can indicate that it is no longer okay for your loved one to be home alone. Then, consider making other arrangements, such as:
Explain that you are only running out for a minute, and remind your loved one that he can call you or another family member if he feels concerned.
Put important telephone numbers and step-by-step instructions at each phone.
Make some simple activities, like a favorite movie or puzzle, readily available to provide distraction.
Ask a friend or another family member to call to chat while you are out, and to reorient your loved one and provide reassurances.
Leave large, simple notes around the home, such as "Joan is at the store and will be home soon" or "Joan will be home when this clock says 4:30."
To ward off wandering, put up visual cues on the exits, like "Stop" or "Do Not Leave."
Make sure that your loved one has some type of identification bracelet, such as those available from local Alzheimer's agencies.
Consider enrolling in Project Lifesaver, which uses state-of-the-art radio technology to quickly locate wanderers.
Ask a neighbor or family friend to visit in your absence.
Invite a friend to accompany you and your loved one outdoors, running errands together as a group.
Hire a trustworthy individual from the community—a high school student or member of your congregation, for example—to come in for a few hours.
Bring in trained dementia care professionals.
As a caregiver, you must assess when to change routines to assure adequate supervision. The last thing that a well-intended caregiver needs is a crisis situation that could have been prevented. These crises can also be construed as neglectful, possibly leading to a Protective Services investigation. It is the caregiver's legal and ethical responsibility to intervene when supervision is needed.