Alzheimer’s or dementia patients need constant assistance in the later stages of the disease. Some families rely on themselves rather than external facilities to provide care to the patients. However, it is a tough task and requires efforts on several fronts. Apart from having adequate funds and a reliable care plan, caregivers need to make sure Alzheimer’s patients stay in a home that is safe and secure for them.
Alzheimer’s patients face a severe decline in their cognitive skills over time. They may easily get lost on their street, forget how to use basic household gadgets or face fear and confusion in simple situations. Their physical abilities get affected and so do their senses of sight, hearing, touching, etc. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure a safe environment for Alzheimer’s patient to stay clear from all potential dangers.
To devise a setup where patients move without harming themselves, the caregivers need to judge the abilities and the behaviors of the patients. This would require answering questions such as whether they are likely to go outside the house alone or are they unable to go down the stairs without assistance. The answers to these questions would be the potential hazards and would require changes. Additionally, one must keep in mind that dementia is a progressive disease. It keeps changing symptoms and caregivers need to be cautious about any new dangers their condition might pose.
Making the outdoors safe!
First off, making sure that ramps are added at exits/entrances in case the patients use a wheelchair or a walker. Also, widening doorways would be required for easy movement. The stairs need to be clear of any debris and should be textured to avoid any possible falling accidents. The edges of the stairs can be marked with red tape for better comprehension. Access to any hazardous areas such as the pool, garage or shed should be limited.
In-home modifications, the bathroom is one of the most important areas to consider. In the bathroom, make sure potentially harmful products or appliances are properly locked away. Install child-proof locks on cabinets and drawers. There is a high risk of slipping accidents in the washroom. Placing non-skid mats around the sink, in the shower, on the floor near the bathtub and the toilet is also necessary. Installing shower chair and grab bars can reduce the risk of accidents since patients can have physical symptoms such as facing difficulty in balance, etc. Use rubber tap covers to avoid major injuries in case of any falls. Consider removing locks to the bathroom doors to give caregivers easy access in case of emergencies.
Kitchen safety tips
The kitchen is a dangerous area! It should be made sure that Alzheimer’s patients have limited access to the kitchen. Safety knobs should be installed on the stove to ensure patients don’t turn it on. All dangerous items such as knives, matches, plastic bags, and scissors should be properly locked away in cabinets. Items that can be hazardous if consumed such as cleaning supplies should be locked away as well.
Electrical items such as the oven or the microwave can pose serious threats if used wrongly. Food forgotten in the oven can start fires and metal items placed in the microwave can cause explosions.
All food in the refrigerator should be edible and constant checks need to be made to ensure no rotten or expired food items are kept in the fridge. Alzheimer’s patients in later stages may lose the sense of distinguishing between good and rotten food which can be hazardous to their health.
Some Alzheimer’s patients may face sleep issues. Making their bedroom a safe, inviting place for them is vital to ensure quality sleep as much as possible. Ensuring adequate lighting to make it easier to go to the washroom during night hours is important. Also, excessively bright lights can cause disorientation in some dementia patients. On the other hand, dim lights may pose a threat of accidents or cast shadows which can be mistaken for hallucinations. Therefore, the needs and the behaviors of the patient need to be taken into account before making the modifications. Placing a night light might also help.
Installing a monitoring device in the patient’s room can make it easier for the caregiver to keep a check and know when the patient needs help. Keeping an extra sheet of linen or waterproof mattresses may be a better option for patients with incontinence issues. Caregivers may sometime also have to ensure safe usage of a bedpan or a bedside commode. This may be needed for patients with severe dementia.
Living Room modifications
While making modifications in the bedroom, avoid excessively crowding the place with furniture and decorative objects to prevent patients from tripping over. Keep walking areas free from cords and other objects. Patients should never be left alone with open fire in the fireplace.
1. Other safety precautions: Some general safety measures should be implemented throughout the house:
2. Make sure all slippery or bumpy surfaces are properly treated. All objects that might cause tripping hazards should be removed.
3. In case the patients cannot use the stairs without assistance, safety gates should be installed to avoid access. Proper lighting should be installed on all staircases for better vision. Handrails are a must! Staircases should be either carpeted or with nonskid mats. Carpets should be glued to avoid stumbling.
4. Emergency numbers and home addresses should be displayed near phones all around the house.
5. Mount smoke detectors in the kitchen.
6. Avoid long cords and cover any unused electrical sockets with childproof plugs.
7. Keep a spare set of keys outside the door in case the patient locks themselves out or in case of any emergency.
8. Make sure all doors and windows have functioning locks.
9. Restrict access to washer and dryer in the laundry area. In general, access to all electrical items should be strictly restricted.
Taking up the duty of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a huge responsibility and without proper planning and safety measures, the journey of caregiving can become very strenuous. Managing hazards and providing a safe space for the patients can ensure a stress-free environment for both the caregiver and the patient.