For many people with a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, the first instinct is to take care of them at home.
However, for many of those caregivers, the full scope of the commitment they’ve made becomes clear early on.
That sound of the window opening upstairs – are they just letting in air, or is there a chance they could fall out the window? That thump from the other room – did they just drop something, or did they fall? The sound of footsteps in the night – are they simply getting a glass of water, or potentially about to leave the house in the dark of night in a state of confusion?
There can become a state of hypervigilance that sets in that adds to the already-stressful nature of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
The reason is simple: seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia are more likely to suffer an accidental injury than those not living with cognitive decline. A 14-year study from 2000-2013 showed higher incidences of suffocation, accidental drug poisoning and falls among seniors living with cognitive decline.
To help, we’ve compiled a few ideas to improve safety around the house and hopefully bring some more peace of mind.
[Learn more about our award-winning memory care program Expressions.]
Outside The House
The first tip applies both indoors and outdoors, but lighting is important in keeping seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia safe. Cognitive impairment causes visuospatial issues, which can be exacerbated by darkness. Motion sensor lights by the front door can help seniors see in the dark.
Just as with indoors, keep tripping hazards away from common walking paths. Hoses, tools, kids’ toys, anything a senior might not see should be put away.
In addition, most people have a barbecue or grill out back on the patio – if so, be sure to put away all fuel and lighters. Furthermore, if you have a pool, make sure it’s surrounded by a locked gate to prevent someone from accidentally falling in.
Many people with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia tend to wander as they can become confused by their surroundings. If your loved one enjoys spending time outside in the backyard, make sure the property is fenced in so that they don’t wander out into the neighborhood.
With slippery surfaces, getting up and down, or getting in and out of a shower or tub, the bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Our first tip: remove locks from the bathroom. Considerations of privacy and modesty are important, but if your loved one slips and suffers a fall you need to be able to get to them quickly.
Furthermore, non-slip bathmats, grab bars and a shower stool are all items that can reduce the chances of slipping in the bathroom.
Lastly, lock up any electrical items or appliances that might be in the bathroom. If a senior with cognitive decline has a sink or tub full of water and gets confused while using an electrical device, it can result in a serious injury or death.
In The Kitchen
Take a moment and scan your kitchen for possible dangers: there’s obviously the knife drawer, that will need to be secured. Appliances like blenders, toasters or anything electrical also need to be put away somewhere safe.
So far, so good.
But consider the cleaning supplies you might have under the sink; it’s entirely possible someone with cognitive decline might think they’re a drink. Or food-shaped magnets or decorations: if confusion sets in, it’s likely a senior could mistake it for actual food.
And maybe you keep a few beers or a bottle of wine in the fridge – you likely know your limit, but will someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia know to enjoy them in moderation?
We also recommend keeping food at eye level or lower – if someone decides to get themselves a snack, you don’t want to risk them getting up on a stool to reach the top shelf to pull down the box of crackers they may be looking for.
Elsewhere Around the House
As we noted earlier with the outdoors – lighting is a simple, but effective way to help someone stay safe. It may be in the form of a bedside lamp, or even motion-activated night lights if they get up to wander in the night.
Lighting is also paramount around stairs. If possible, have lighting installed along the stairwell to help seniors navigate them safely.
Of course, stairs and cognitive impairment can be a troublesome combination at the best of times. With diminished eyesight and visuospatial decline, stairs are not particularly safe for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Adding bright or glow-in-the-dark tape at the top and bottom of stairs can serve as an indicator that they may be verging into dangerous territory. A locked gate, particularly at night, can be an important safety measure. And if possible, ensure the depth of the stair can fit a person’s entire foot so they’re not having even more trouble than necessary with balance.
Memory Care with Prestige Senior Living
If the toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is leading you to consider full-time memory care, Prestige Senior Living’s award-winning wellness program Expressions may be the answer.
We help our residents live with dignity and purpose, while remaining active and engaged. To learn more about Expressions, find the community nearest you and contact the team for more, or book a tour.