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Living alone with dementia

Around 120,000 people with dementia in the UK live alone. A person in the early stages of dementia may be able to live alone and completely independently for some time, especially with support from family and friends.

However, as their symptoms progress, it may become harder for the person to manage on their own. It is natural to be concerned about their ability to cope, but with adaptations and support, they may be able to live alone for longer.

Technology to support a person with dementia who lives alone

Technology like a mobile phone, tablet or smart device (eg Alexa) can be very helpful for people with dementia who live alone. It can be used:

  • to set reminders, eg for taking medication, social events, appointments and birthdays
  • to navigate when out and about
  • to look up useful information like bus timetables
  • for online shopping
  • to keep in touch with family and friends

Assistive technology and safety devices can also be useful – for example fall alarms, wearable GPS tracker devices or tracking apps, and video doorbells.

These can be reassuring for family members, but always respect the person’s right to privacy and consult them before installing any form of monitoring device.

Routines and organisation for a person with dementia who lives alone

Being well organised with a simple daily and weekly routine can help the person manage at home alone. This could include:

  • using a diary, wall calendar, whiteboard or phone calendar to keep track of tasks and activities such as workdays, household chores and socialising
  • ensuring regular activities happen on the same day each week – eg always having shopping delivered on a Wednesday
  • having a set place for important items like glasses, keys, wallet and phone so they are less likely to be misplaced
  • sticking labels or photos to cupboard doors as a reminder of what is inside
  • writing simple instructions for appliances like the washing machine, dishwasher and microwave and keeping them next to the appliance
  • speaking to the GP about arranging repeat prescription deliveries so the person does not run out of regular medication
  • asking doctors and other healthcare professionals to write a brief summary of appointments and follow-up to help the person remember what was discussed

It is important for the person with dementia to continue their usual social activities, with adaptations if necessary. This will help them maintain their self-esteem and connection with others – especially if they tell friends about their diagnosis so they can offer support, for example by driving them to activities.

Social support could come from:

  • a dementia support group
  • a befriending service where a volunteer can phone the person, visit them at home or accompany them to an activity or appointment
  • non-dementia-specific groups – such as a choir, gardening club or sports group
  • members of their place of worship
  • neighbours
  • colleagues
  • you, other family members and friends – but make sure that when you visit, you enjoy some quality time together (such as going out for a meal, to the hairdresser or for a walk) rather than just spending it helping with tasks like cleaning, gardening or washing

If the person with dementia drives, they are legally required to notify the DVLA and their vehicle insurer of their diagnosis. They will not necessarily have to stop driving, but they may have to reapply for their licence or take a driving assessment.

From time to time, suggest that the person takes you for a short drive so you can look out for any issues. You should also check their car for new dents or scratches that might indicate they are having difficulty driving.

If you have any concerns, talk to the person about your worries. They may be aware that driving is becoming more difficult and be willing to stop.

If the person does have to – or choose to – stop driving, you can support them to find alternative transport such as buses and taxis so they can continue with their regular activities. If they need to attend medical appointments, some hospitals have volunteer drivers who can provide transport.

If possible, spend some time with the person in their home to check for any safety issues.

  • If the person is becoming less mobile, consider installing accessible features like a walk-in shower, stair lift or handrails
  • Safety devices such as anti-flood plugs and gas valve limiters that prevent gas hobs being left on accidentally can give you reassurance and reduce the risk of accident or injury
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • Consider giving a trusted local family member, friend or neighbour a spare key, or use a key safe with a passcode that you can give them, in case a problem arises

Please see Sources of support below for our information on making the home safe and comfortable for a person with dementia.

People with dementia often have difficulty managing their finances – and missing payments like rent/mortgage and bills may impact their ability to remain in their home. They may also be more vulnerable to scams.

It may be helpful to support the person with their finances. For example, you could:

  • set up direct debits for their bills
  • put spending caps on their cards and withdrawals so they cannot overspend
  • discuss having their post redirected to a family member and having access to their email and bank accounts so you can look out for scams
  • encourage them to sign up for the Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service to stop unwanted marketing calls and post

When you visit the person with dementia, take time to review how they are coping on their own. It is important that the person can be honest about how they are managing and ask for help if they need it, so make sure you ask if they are finding anything challenging. You can also ask local family and friends if they have concerns.

Bear in mind that people with dementia can have good days and bad days, so their ability to cope with everyday living may fluctuate.

If you see the person struggling with a task like cooking a meal or using the washing machine, avoid taking over. If you can step back and watch them carry out these activities, it will help them maintain their skills and independence, and over time, help you spot any changes in their abilities.

If the person seems to be neglecting their personal hygiene or their home, this could be a sign that they need some extra help.

As the person’s dementia progresses, they may need more help at home, for example from a professional paid carer. To establish what support they need, you can request a needs assessment through social services.

Many people with dementia who live alone are reluctant to accept extra support, so it important that they are fully included in any decisions. For example, they could be involved in deciding what they would like with help with or meeting potential carers.

You could also talk to the person about the benefits of getting support – such as relieving them of tasks they find difficult; freeing up time for other activities they enjoy; and providing companionship.

If possible, phase in changes gradually and positively – the person may only need support for a few hours a week at first, but this can be increased as their needs grow.

There is no fixed point at which it is no longer practical or safe for a person with dementia to live alone. However, you might want to consider their ability to:

  • make everyday decisions
  • prepare food
  • eat without support
  • take medication correctly
  • maintain personal hygiene
  • go out independently

Some people with dementia may be able to remain at home long-term with increased support – for example from a family member who could move in temporarily, or a live-in carer.

In some cases, moving into an assisted living facility or retirement property can be a positive next step, helping the person retain some independence, but with easy access to support, companionship and social activities.

Some people’s needs increase to the point that they need to move from living alone to living in a care or nursing home. Please see Sources of support below for our information on choosing a care home, including care homes for people with young onset dementia (where symptoms develop under the age of 65).

Moving to a new home can be a big and challenging step, so it is a good idea to research your options in good time to avoid making decisions in an emergency. This will also allow the person to be fully involved, visiting potential properties with you and sharing their views about where they would feel most comfortable.

Many people with young onset dementia live alone. These tips may help them maintain a safe, independent lifestyle in their own home for as long as possible.

  • Together, weigh up the benefits of the person doing an activity (eg taking the bus alone) with the risks (eg getting on the wrong bus) – this may ease some of your worries while helping them retain their self-esteem, confidence and independence
  • If the person is still working, encourage them to tell their employer and close colleagues about their diagnosis so they can offer support and make adaptations
  • Ask the person’s permission to keep in touch with their manager or a trusted colleague yourself so that together with the person with dementia, you can any concerns or issues they would like support with
  • Encourage the person to continue activities that maintain their independence and a sense of purpose – such as working; driving; going to the pub, theatre or sports matches; and going on holiday
  • Discuss how you could adapt activities as their dementia progresses – for example, if you are concerned about them getting lost if they go for a run or bike ride alone, they could go with a friend or join a club
  • Encourage the person to use technology to help with their everyday life, with adaptations if needed – for example, they may need help with setting reminders or managing their calendar
  • Help them research local or online young onset dementia support groups to meet others in similar situations – please see our database of young onset dementia support groups and services
  • Find out about other community groups that they could join – such as a book club, sports team or craft group – to help them build a supportive network and maintain an identity outside having dementia
  • If the person provides childcare for family members, review this regularly together to assess whether it is appropriate for them to continue

To speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse about living alone or any other aspect of dementia, please call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email

To book a phone or video appointment with an Admiral Nurse, please visit

Dementia UK resources

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