Can someone with dementia live at home alone

Berlin (dpa / tmn) - Home is still the most beautiful. This is how many older people see it. According to the Federal Statistical Office, every third person over 65 lived alone in 2014. Ascending trend. But the risk of developing dementia increases with age.

Some of those affected hide the first signs - for fear of having to go to a home. It doesn't have to be. Under certain circumstances, a person suffering from dementia can stay in their own four walls for the time being.

The first requirement is to accept that you need help. "That is often the biggest hurdle," says Ulrike Döring from the Working Group of Christian Sister Associations and Nursing Organizations in Germany (ADS). The contact persons for someone who suspects the onset of dementia are relatives and the family doctor.

If dementia is diagnosed, relatives and friends are often skeptical that the person affected can continue to live alone. But: "The home chosen by a sick person should by no means be underestimated," says Christine Sowinski from the Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe (KDA). If someone has to leave their familiar surroundings against their stated will and move into a home, this can worsen their condition. On the other hand, concerns that the person concerned could endanger themselves and others are quite justified. How can this conflict be resolved?

"The prerequisite for a person with dementia to continue living alone is usually a functioning social network," says Saskia Weiß from the German Alzheimer's Society. Someone has to hold the strings in the background. An outpatient nursing service, for example, takes care of the medication, help takes care of certain household activities, lunch is provided by a provider of "Meals on Wheels", and volunteers occasionally accompany those affected to lunch or to museum visits. This ensures that people with dementia continue to maintain contact.

Neighbors can also be included. "In many parishes there are also volunteers who regularly visit a sick person at home," says Döring. Usually the children or other relatives coordinate the network.

What if there are no relatives? "Then it is often the outpatient nursing services who organize further help for a sick person if necessary," explains Sowinski. But: "Even with the best organization, 24-hour support is not possible," says Weiß. That is why the dementia patient needs a home emergency number. This is a small detector that he wears on a strap on his arm or on a chain around his neck and presses in an emergency.

Relatives or the outpatient care service should also regularly sound out possible sources of danger in the home, advises Weiß. If the dementia patient tends to leave the stove on or not turn off the tap, safety systems can be installed. It may be better to remove matches from the apartment.

The person affected should deal with their illness as openly as possible. "That takes courage," admits Weiß. But if someone frankly admits that they have dementia and therefore sometimes cannot find their way around, this often meets with understanding and willingness to help. In general, however, the environment should only be available to a person suffering from dementia in the places where they need help. If someone is still mobile but has difficulties finding their way around, for example, one does not have to relieve them of shopping. It is better to organize an accompaniment.

But living alone as a person with dementia also has its limits. For example, when the disease is already well advanced and it becomes a danger for yourself or others. If the person concerned refuses to move into a home, a supervisor can be provided by the district court to take care of everything else. Someone speaks to the court for this and states that, according to his impression, the neighbor can no longer regulate her own affairs. The court takes action on this information.

However, no one can make a general statement about when a person with dementia can no longer live alone, explains Weiß: "The decision is always an individual one."