As a caregiver for an aging parent or spouse with memory loss, safety is your top priority. You probably already take necessary precautions when taking your loved one to their doctor’s appointments or traveling to new places. But do you take those same precautions at home?
Many Ohio caregivers and their aging loved ones are staying inside right now in accordance with the state's stay at home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Thus, if you live with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s important to create a safe environment where they feel comfortable. Seniors with memory loss can have a difficult time orienting to their surroundings, and they might misinterpret objects and situations around them.Take this time to evaluate your surroundings and make the changes that will benefit your loved one. Make sure you look at the house through their eyes or, better yet, ask them which areas make them the most and least comfortable. Pay special attention to these five areas.
Making Your Home Safer for Someone With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
1. Remove Fall Hazards
Many people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia lose some of their fine motor control. Because of this, they are more likely to trip on items on the floor.
Walk through your home and take note of any fall hazards you see, and then remove as many as possible. Common trip hazards include area rugs, wires or cords, footstools, papers, and even toys. The more you can pick up now, the safer your loved one will be.
2. Look for Disorienting Features
Dementia can impact a variety of faculties including depth perception, balance, coordination, memory, and strength. Thus, as you look at each room individually, consider all of its different elements. For example, are the walls covered in a busy wallpaper that could be disorienting? What about large, floor-length mirrors? Even glass patio doors or windows can become confusing for someone with dementia.
Look at your carpet and see if it’s bubbled. If so, try to pull it taut or strategically place furniture to flatten it. Also, look for wheeled swivel chairs that could be dangerous and bookshelves that could topple over. Move these out of the way or make sure they’re locked in place. Finally, arrange your furniture in a way that gives a clear path for you and your loved ones to walk easily.
3. Assess the Bathroom
Do you have non-slip mats in your bathtub or shower? How about grab rails for your loved one to use throughout the room? These can be easy additions to make the bathroom safer and more comfortable for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
It’s also a good idea to move all medicines, razors, and cleaning supplies into a room or cabinet that is locked and out of your loved one’s sight. This simple step will make sure everyone is safe and protected.
4. Safety-Proof the Kitchen
If possible, install safety knobs on your stove so your loved one can’t accidentally turn it on without realizing it. Also, you’ll want to move sharp knives and other potentially dangerous items or appliances from the area.
Ensure that there is food out on the counters and easily accessible so your loved one won’t need to go searching through cabinets to find any. Similarly, remove any magnets or trinkets that are shaped like food — they can be easily confused for the real thing.
5. Take General Precautions
Now is an excellent time to check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector, as well as the locks around your home. Install night-lights in especially dark areas so everyone can see a bit better. During the daytime, consider opening the blinds to let natural light in and make sure everything is illuminated!
Preparing a home to be safe for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can seem like a daunting project, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll make it through easily. To learn how else you can support your loved one — as well as yourself — download Marjorie P. Lee’s Caregiver Handbook.