Living well - Quality of life - Strategies for living alone

What can I do to maintain my independence and continue to live alone?

A large number of people diagnosed with dementia are able to maintain their independence and live by themselves for quite some time after diagnosis. This section contains important information about living alone. You may also find it helpful to look at the Using assistive technology to remain independent section. Consider the following strategies.

  • If you are looking for different meal preparation options, you can look up your local Meals on Wheels, who deliver nutritious meals daily to your home. Some senior's centres and day programs also provide meal programs on a regular basis.
  • Organize and label your closets and drawers around the house. This will make it easier for you to find things. Put clothing that goes together (outfits) on one hanger to reduce the anxiety associated with deciding what to wear. Label the outsides of drawers with written and visual clues to what will be found in the drawer.
  • As a backup, leave a set of house keys with a neighbour you can count on or a family member that lives close by
  • When cooking, use a microwave, toaster or crock pot instead of the oven
  • Leave reminders for yourself around the house. These can range from "unplug the coffee pot" to "lock the door". Make sure reminders are left in visible places.
  • To get help with household tasks, such as housekeeping, preparing meals, transportation, etc., try connecting with a local Community Care Centre or Alzheimer Society to help you find specific services in the community.
  • Many banks have an online service, which can help you to simplify the way you do banking. If your bank does not have this service option, let the bank manager know you have dementia and they can help you keep track of your banking.
  • Arrange for all cheques to be deposited through direct deposit (e.g., pension)
  • Arrange for a daily call or visit from either a family member or a friend. Many communities have services that will call or visit to check-in. Ask your doctor for more information.
  • If you are driving, have regular trips with a trusted family member who, as a passenger, can observe your driving over time. Be open to his/her feedback about your driving so that you can prepare for, and accept, the need to stop driving.
  • If you are driving, plan your errands ahead of time. Make a list of where you need to go. The list can help as a reminder for you. Also, others can help you with directions for the next destination on your list.
  • When purchasing appliances like a microwave, look for one that has an easy to use touchpad and basic functions only. Cover symbols that you don't need to use with duct tape to cover up the extra symbols, and help you to focus on what is needed.
  • If you are uncomfortable answering the telephone, let the voice mail record the messages. That way you can control when you listen to the message and how much of the message you listen to at one time. You can also repeat listening to the message.


List adapted with permission from Alzheimer Society of Canada (2003). Just for you. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Compiled with permission from de Witt, L. (2006). On the felt time and space of living alone with dementia. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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