The Story of Those Living Alone with Dementia and a Free Alzheimer’s Association Resource to Help Them Cope
Rosa has always been an independent person. Her family lives in Mexico and although she knows some people in her community, she doesn’t attend any social or faith groups. After getting diagnosed with dementia, Rosa thought she could continue living alone but she’s finding it hard to cope.
She struggles to get by on her own- getting groceries, keeping track of bills, even sleeping at night is becoming more difficult. She looks thinner than usual and her appearance is disheveled. Those who know Rosa assume that she must have other people in her life who will notice and do something.
Often times the resources available for people with dementia are also based on the assumption that there is a care partner who is able and willing to help. A substantial portion of people with dementia live alone, however. According to a recent report, they account for 13% of those diagnosed.
This is why the Alzheimer’s Association is offering a free program to assist people with memory problems who live alone in San Mateo County. The Dementia Capable Services & Supports initiative was made possible with the generous support of San Mateo County and local community partners, and has already shown success in identifying high risk individuals and connecting them with legal aid, social and home safety services.
The program includes home visits to determine needs and wants, help in coordinating support, as well as information and tools for families, friends and others helping those living alone with dementia. An additional component of the Program is educating community service providers and increasing awareness through talks and conferences such as the Circle of Care in Foster City. Professionals from the Alzheimer’s Association have also met with Meals on Wheels and Second Harvest Food Bank drivers, as well as HICAP (Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program) volunteers to promote awareness of dementia and how it creates a hidden disability.
An estimated 7,000 people with dementia will be living alone in San Mateo County by 2030. Taking this into consideration, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has set a precedent in recognizing the increasing need to develop services, responsive to the needs of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias living alone. Funding this program has allowed the Alzheimer’s Association to bridge the available resources, and care specialists are witnessing the life changing impact first hand:
“A man we are working with is facing social isolation. He is over 80 and lives in a subsidized apartment alone, and while his daughters stop by every day, they worry that he will get bored and wander. We got him extra home care hours with someone who speaks his native language, specifically for socialization.”, says Rachel Kast, a Dementia Care Specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Managing personal needs and daily activities is a primary challenge for people with dementia who live alone because of their cognitive impairment. They are at high risk for self-neglect, malnutrition, injury, medication errors, financial exploitation, unmet care needs, and nursing home placement.
If you or anyone you know is interested in this program, please call Stefanie Bonigut or Rachel Kast at 800.272.3900 or visit www.alz.org.