Can I leave the person I’m caring for home alone?

Can I leave the person I’m caring for home alone?

Like many caregivers, most likely you are continually looking for answers to some very tough caregiver questions like, "Can I leave the person in my care alone?"

Leaving a person alone guidelines are difficult to find, yet, it's hard (if not impossible!) to be with the person we are caring for 24/7.

Many caregivers may feel guilty that they have to leave, but it is something that is unavoidable.

Whether you need to run errands, look after your own family, go to work, or take a break, sometimes you need to be away from the person you are caring for. Many caregivers may feel guilty that they have to leave, but it is something that is unavoidable.

The best things you can do are:

  • Ensure that the person you're caring for is safe to be left alone
  • And if not, find the proper assistance to be there for them when you do need to step out

But what if you aren't sure if it is safe to leave them on their own?

Take a look at the caregiver questions you should ask, outlined below, plus the suggested guidelines that will help you decide. If the person you are caring for meets these criteria, you should feel comfortable in leaving them at home on their own. 

Caregiver questions to ask

Can they use the phone to call for help if necessary?

A cordless phone or cell phone makes it easy for the person to carry it around with them at all times. If they're more comfortable with using a traditional wired phone, make sure they know where each one is in the house, and that they can access it and know how to use it. Provide a list of emergency contacts, including your own, just in case.

For people who are forgetful or unlikely to carry a phone on them, home monitoring devices are a possible option. Getting a home monitoring device that they can wear and press a button for assistance, would help to ensure they can notify someone quickly if they do need help.

Do they feel comfortable with being left alone?

Make sure the person in your care truly feels comfortable with this temporary arrangement before you leave. Be sensitive to whether the person seems comfortable being left alone or not. It is possible they may not want to impose or worry you and due to this, might say they are comfortable when in fact they're not. 

Try asking specific questions to be sure they are comfortable.  Try asking them what their plans are for while you are gone, and then based on what they say, you can follow up by asking specific questions about certain tasks.

Here's an example of how the dialogue might go:

Caregiver – "What are your plans for this afternoon?"

Care Person – "I am going to watch television until you get back."

Caregiver – "Do you feel comfortable if you need to get up to get a drink or use the washroom?"

Judging their answers to these questions will help you get a better sense of if they feel comfortable or not.

If you sense that they're not okay with being left alone, there are a few options. For example:

  • You could make arrangements with a friend, family member or neighbour to be there or drop in while you are gone.
  • Or, you could make arrangements for home care or a virtual visit. 

It's a good idea to discuss what makes the person you are caring for most comfortable, so that you can feel confident you are doing the best thing to help them when you are away.

Do they recognize the sounds and signs of danger and can they leave the home when necessary to find safety? 

Don't leave them alone if they are not able to recognize or react to the sounds and signs of danger.

The signs and sounds of danger that the person being left alone should be wary of are:

  • Smoke
  • Fire alarm
  • Breaking glass
  • Sparks emitting from electrical appliances or outlets
  • Extreme weather conditions like funnel clouds, heatwaves, or cold snaps

Depending on the season, make sure that the furnace or air conditioner is in working order before you leave. Seniors are particularly vulnerable if the weather is extremely cold or hot, so make sure that the thermostat is set to a temperature that's comfortable for them.

Do they know how to, and are they able to, make a meal when hungry? 

Don't leave them alone if they are not able to feed themselves or get a drink when needed.

To help make it easier for those who are able, leave nutritious, easy-to-prepare options like hummus and vegetable sticks, sliced fruit, sandwich fixings, or crackers and cheese in the fridge, and let them know that food and drink are there before you leave.

Another option is to prepare meals ahead of time that they can microwave when feeling hungry.

Can they use the washroom without help?

Don't leave them alone if they are not able to use the washroom without assistance from another person.

To minimize the risk of falling, ensure your washroom has support bars around the toilet and shower/tub area, and that there are no rugs on the floor that pose a tripping or slipping hazard.

Click here for more great ideas to create a Safe and Stylish Washroom.

Can they recognize when someone is a stranger?

Don't leave them alone if they are not able to recognize when someone is a stranger.

Before you leave the house, inform the person in your care if you're expecting anyone to arrive, such as a service repairperson, friend or relative, health care provider or neighbour. Have a plan ready in case an unexpected person, such as a salesperson, rings the doorbell while you're away; in most cases, it's probably better to advise the person you're caring for to ignore these callers.

Never leave someone home alone if the person you are caring for has a tendency to:

  • Wander
  • Self-harm
  • Cause damage to the home
  • Or has a history of suffering from health emergencies such as a fall or seizure

In these instances, it's not safe to leave him or her alone in the house, even for just a few minutes.

Whenever possible, try to arrange a back-up caregiver ahead of time. This can be a friend or family member that you trust, or they could be a community care worker.

Setting up a Tyze network around the person needing care is a great way to bring together friends, family members, and health care professionals to coordinate the care, share information and ensure that the person in care never has to be left alone unnecessarily.  




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