One of the greatest concerns for those caring for a loved one with dementia is keeping them safe. And rightfully so, as even the most familiar areas and objects in a home can become serious hazards to someone who is cognitively impaired. Open doors, tile floors, bathtubs and stove tops must be re-evaluated in context of the loved one’s reasoning ability, emotional stability and cognitive acuity. And it’s not easy, especially when that loved one is your parent --- the one who kept your fingers off hot stove tops and kept you from opening doors and bolting into the street.
Now it is your turn to keep mom or dad safe. There are several things you can do to help minimize the potential for accidents and keep your loved one out of harm’s way. Here are some suggestions from The Alzheimer’s Association and from our team here at Anthem Memory Care:
- Safety devices: First, make sure all your alert and safety devices are working properly. That means both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Also make sure you have a fire extinguisher located in a place that is easy to access.
- General room and floor safety: Consider installing addition lighting in hallways and other dark areas. Remove anything on the floors that can cause your loved one to trip. Rugs should be flat lying with a backing that grips the floor. Small furniture items such as magazine racks and small tables should be located away from natural pathways. Electric cords should be neatly tucked and not dangling.
- Kitchen safety: Make sure your appliances have an automatic shut-off capability. Install a circuit breaker or valve breaker on the stove so that it cannot be readily turned on. Keep all appliances away from wet areas, such as sinks. Lock all cabinets containing potentially hazardous chemicals, such as cleaning agents.
- Bathroom safety: Consider installing a “walk in” shower that is easy to access. Make sure to place adhesive non-slip strips in the shower as well as hand bars. Make sure the bathroom rug has a backing that grips the floor to avoid slipping. Keep all medications locked in the medicine cabinet. Consider installing thermometer gauges that keep water from getting too hot.
- Garage/basement safety: If it is not necessary for your loved one to access the garage or basement, install a lock on the door. Otherwise, make sure that any tools and equipment are either locked up or secured and out of reach. Lock up any hazardous materials or chemicals.
- Outdoor safety: Put deadbolts on street-facing doors. Make sure to situate them either very high or very low on the door, out of easy reach, to help prevent your loved one from wandering out. Install railings for all areas with steps. Place adhesive non-slip tape to steps. Fencing can be used strategically to create outdoor areas that are safe and yet allow freedom of movement. Sturdy chairs and tables that sit in a fixed position can be set up to enable your loved one to sit outdoors without having to maneuver them each time. Lock up any machinery, vehicles or other equipment stored outside.
(The Alzheimer’s Association provides a free safety checklist, which you can access here.)
While you will never be able to keep your parent’s home 100% free from every potential harm, you can certainly optimize their environment to be safer and more secure. With all this in mind, is also important to understand that the time may come when your parent’s well being and safety needs are better met in an environment which has been built specifically to keep them safe and comfortable. Our Anthem Memory Care communities are dedicated to providing an environment that provides freedom of movement and loving care for those with dementia, all in a safe and healthy setting. Feel free to contact us for more information.