How to Tell if Someone With Alzheimer’s Needs Assisted Living

by, Paula Spencer

Changes in communication
  • Have letters and grandchildren’s birthday cards slowed or stopped?
  • Does she seldom initiate calls anymore (it’s always you calling first)?
  • Does she seem in a hurry to get off the phone, fail to ask you many questions, or seem unresponsive to your comments?
  • Do you get nonemergency calls at unreasonable hours, or hear complaints from friends that they’re receiving such calls?
  • Is she losing weight inexplicably?
  • Is she gaining weight inexplicably?
  • Has her usual style (hair, makeup, clothing) become noticeably different?
  • Does she dress appropriately for the occasion?
  • Does she dress appropriately for the weather?
  • Have you detected the smell of urine on her clothes?
  • Does she stay up later and later, and then not wake until practically midday?
  • When you pick her up for an appointment, is she routinely not ready yet?
  • Does she forget you said you’d be visiting and seem surprised to see you?
  • Does she berate you for being late when you’re not?
  • Does she no longer mention certain old friends, or when you mention them, is she dismissive?
  • Has she quit longstanding social engagements (clubs, card parties, religious committees)?
  • Has she noticeably lost interest in younger grandchildren (she’s no longer asking about them, wanting to spend time with them, or sending them notes or gifts)?
  • Have you ever come to visit and found the temperature of the house inappropriate (much too hot or too cold)?
  • Are cupboards full of multiple units of the same item, more than she could reasonably consume?
  • Is the refrigerator full of expired or spoiled food?
  • Is the refrigerator nearly empty?
  • Do you see any melted pots or pans with burned bottoms?
  • Do you see signs of spills that haven’t been mopped?
  • Are there piles of unopened mail or obviously unread newspapers?
  • Can you smell urine?

Other more obvious and more ominous warning signs that someone may no longer be able to live alone include:

  • Having electricity or water shut off because bills have gone unpaid
  • Letters thanking her for her contribution to a charitable organization that you’re not aware she has a history of supporting
  • Robbery (because she let someone in the house unsuspectingly or left a door unlocked)
  • Wandering from home or getting lost
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