While we have many tasks caring for the dementia patient, one of the most important tasks is to make the home safe for the aging adult with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
When you hear the diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the last thing a family member may consider is the importance of making the environment safe. Individuals with dementia slowly lose their ability to think and recognize unsafe conditions or situations. Caring for an individual with dementia will require the same safety settings you would consider for anyone that is aging and has a progressive deteriorating condition with a few extra challenges.
Encourage Independence, Safely
The goal of making the home safe is to allow each individual to maintain their maximum level of independence. Remember, as dementia advances, a person will not recognize or even be aware of unsafe situations or obvious dangers.
Safety Precautions to Take
- Safety Locks- Utilize safety locks on cabinets in the bathroom, kitchen and utility areas, as you would for a toddler. It is important to lock up medications, cleaning products, and even everyday laundry products. You may consider using safety locks on drawer areas where sharp objects, scissors, pins for sewing, and matches are stored.
- Keep Chemicals Out of Reach- Keep gardening products, insecticides, power tools, or other potentially harmful products located in the basement or garage locked up in a separate area. Always lock items in a tool shed or separate area that is not accessible to the individual with dementia.
- Oven Safety- The kitchen oven and stove can be a safety hazard. Many individuals with dementia may have a tendency to turn the stove on and walk away and forget it. This can lead to a kitchen fire. Individuals over the age of 65 years of age have the highest chances of dying in a fire. The chances of dying in a fire increase dramatically as they age in increments of decades.
- Automatic Timers & Triggers- There are newly developed products that will turn the stove off when someone walks away for the stove. There are also timers that can be used that will make the stove functional at different times of the day. Having a nonflammable apron that is used during cooking is also recommended.
- Reversed Locks- Locks on bedroom doors and bathroom doors should be changed to ones that can be locked on the outside, not the inside. There may be a time when an individual will go into a room and lock the door and then forget how to unlock it and get out. Additional locks on some doors may be necessary for the confused individuals with dementia that are inclined to wander. Placing the locks higher on the door or consider using keyless entry locks for some rooms in the house to make it difficult to get out.
- Alarms- A door alarm on all doors that open to the outside may be used to alert when the door opens. This is a good tool to use when a family member is caring for someone that wanders.
- Bright Lighting- It is so important to have a well-lit home for the evening, both inside and outside of the home. Darkness can cause confusion or a feeling of fear in someone with dementia. Night lights may decrease confusion when waking up in the middle of the night.
- Video- If the dementia conditions worsens significantly, there are now fairly affordable video camera systems that can be put in the home so the care giver can always know what is going on in the house.
The cognitive thought processes will gradually disappear and the challenges of changing behaviors and physical abilities will require different levels of care as the condition progresses. The level of assistance and safety measures should match the needs of a person as their condition advances to a higher level of care.
It is important to prepare for these changes early in the disease process. Individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s may become very active and develop unexpected behaviors. Many times the behaviors are like that of an active toddler- wandering, hiding things, and hoarding things. Many have mood swings that may result in aggressive behaviors.
To learn more about how dementia care communities keep the environment safe or for more information about dementia care, call (888) 364-5752.