One of the biggest concerns we hear from family caregivers of loved ones living at home with dementia is safety. Even in a home a parent has lived in for years, adult children will worry about the potential for a stove burner to be left on or a foot to catch the edge of a carpet.
Individuals with dementia are even more vulnerable to these kinds of safety hazards. In addition to the normal issues surrounding aging, they are dealing with significant cognitive and physical impairment, both of which will steadily become more pronounced.
If you are a family caregiver for a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, you will want to look into resources to help keep your loved one safe. As the disease progresses, that may involve reaching out to a memory care community which has been designed specifically to provide a safe and healthy environment for individuals with dementia.
In the meantime, however, you need to be vigilant in removing as many safety hazards as possible for your loved one. Here are five areas to focus on:
- Kitchen: Now is the time to fix that faulty stove burner or the faucet that is hard to turn off. These once small issues can create major hazards. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Consider investing in safety knobs for stoves that will automatically turn off if a burner is left on too long.
- Lighting: Dark hallways and doorways can cause disorientation and anxiety for an individual living with dementia, resulting in a trip or fall. Consider adding hallway lighting and adding overhead lights. Motion sensor lights that don’t have to be manually turned on may be a good idea as well.
- Furniture and carpets: Coffee tables and rug edges that were once easily avoided can quickly cause your loved one to lose their balance and fall. Consider replacing old rugs with newer, thinner carpeting that is easier for aging legs and feet to clear. Make sure there is a clean pathway around chairs and tables.
- Doors and windows: As the disease progresses, your loved one may begin to impulsively open the front door or a large window and leave, walking out into the street without a regard for personal safety. Consider using deadbolts or placing locks up high or very low on doors and windows. In these cases, it is important to have a caregiver nearby, preferably in the home at all times.
- Outdoor areas: Exits to the street should be fenced and railings installed for steps. Adhesive strips should be placed in areas where pavement or steps may be slippery. Awnings can be installed to keep your loved one’s favorite outdoor areas dry.
More safety tips and advice can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association website. You can download their safety checklist here.
Remember that, in addition to taking the above precautions, it is important to make sure your loved one is not left alone for long periods of time. As their cognitive abilities become more impaired, the potential for accidents will continue to increase.
We welcome you to reach out to an Anthem community near you. Consider us an added resource as your caregiver journey continues. Come visit us anytime. We understand how challenging this period of your life is and are always here to help.