QUESTION: What can I do for my mother who lives alone with dementia?

We have so many individuals living alone in our community. Dementia is just one of the diagnosis that can cause concern. When someone is living alone there are so many things that can go wrong. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t live alone. We as family, caregivers and friends can take steps to help prevent some of the difficulties.

One suggestion immediately comes to mind, the idea of a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) or maybe a live video system. These types of systems can be very inexpensive to purchase and maintain. A PERS usually has an initial cost and then some type of monitoring charge. These are usually minimal about $25 monthly. Some common names are Philips Lifeline, DOYLE, MedicalAlert, Constant Companion, Life Alert and many more.

The live video streaming service requires the household have Wi-Fi and these systems are more costly to purchase (about $160 to $1000), but have few monthly monitoring fees. These cameras can be placed throughout the home and surrounding yard allowing video access to caregivers both in the home and living away. These cameras often allow voice activated ability to talk back and forth. They also sometimes include the video doorbells that have become very common. Some common names are Google Nest, Wyze, Echo, and many more.

This type of monitoring may be uncomfortable at first for the individual living alone, but these systems can make everyone involved more comfortable with the situation in the long run.

Another solution could be hiring someone to come and work with your parent on a regular basis. A companion, housekeeper or aide who is in the home regularly can monitor and assist the individual to stay at home longer. This solution provides socialization, assistance and eyes in the home to see what is happening. This can be set up to be as much or as little as is necessary. Having help in the home can be expensive, but is usually less expensive that moving to a facility and giving up that home environment.

I would also suggest education for yourself and your mother. Consider contacting the Alzheimer’s Association, or maybe Office of the Aging to find out about programs and materials to learn about Dementia. There are many types of Dementia and each of those manifest differently with regard to behaviors, and predictable changes that will come. It is important for you and your parent to become educated about what the future may bring. You didn’t say specifically Alzheimer’s Association, but many of the problems, behaviors and solutions that are related to Alzheimer’s can be used in your mother’s situation.

Planning for our future is a normal part of life. As we move through the phases of life we each make changes in our environment to adjust to those changes. Where we live, what we drive, where we shop, what organizations we belong to, and how do we spend our time, all change throughout our lifetimes. This new information gives you an opportunity to pull back and look at the bigger picture. What is working now, what needs to be adjusted right away to make her more successful now? What problems are occurring now that need to be addressed sooner rather than later?

Some of this information can be obtained from the internet, some from agencies in your mother’s community. Sometimes talking with friends can give you some ideas.

This new diagnosis will impact the steps you take in the coming weeks and months. Information about your mother’s diagnosis will help you to plan for what might happen. Information about agencies, services, levels of care will all help with planning and solution.

Communicating regularly with your mother is important. This can be done over the phone, via video or in person. Changes happen gradually, but seem to impact us suddenly. This new diagnosis can be your ‘aha moment’ to address her long term plans.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions, concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at