If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it is understandable to be concerned about their safety. Dementia affects everyone differently with symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, mobility limitations and memory loss posing serious safety concerns. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that a loved one with dementia is safe. Below, we will look at concrete steps you can take to achieve this.
Check for Potential Safety Risks
Any plan you come up with to keep a loved one safe must start with an evaluation of the house they are living in, as well as their environment. You need to think about hazards such as stairs or the bathtub. You also want to consider any areas they may have had difficulty with in the past, such as a slippery carpet that led to a fall.
Once you understand these risks, you can start taking the necessary steps to eliminate them. Remember that these environmental changes are always easier than trying to change your loved one’s behaviors, such as wandering at night. Also, these assessments should be done as dementia progresses. Remember that things that never posed a problem in the past may become problematic as new symptoms show up.
Safety in the Bathroom
Most bathrooms are not built with people with dementia in mind. This is a reason why the bathroom can be such a danger to your loved one. A good place to start is with installing grab bars. They should be installed near the shower, bathtub and door. In some cases, a handheld shower head might also be a great addition.
Placing nonslip mats or strips down is a great way to address slippery bathroom floors. Next, install childproof latches on drawers and cabinets to keep electrical appliances out of reach and to prevent self-medication.
A common problem for people living with dementia is locking themselves in. To prevent this, you should consider removing locks from all doors apart from those that lead outside. If this is not possible, relocate the deadbolts or latches to above or below eye level.
Another change to consider is adding lights that have the same level of brightness. Changes in brightness levels can be disorienting for a lot of people with dementia. Adding lights in outer landings, entries, hallways and other areas of the house not only ensures even lighting, but also means that a loved one can see where they are walking.
Next, remove all clutter from the house. In some cases, you might even have to remove everything and leave the bare minimum. Clutter such as extension cords or clothes on the floor can be tripping hazards and should be removed.
Also check that all furniture is secured. Cabinets, bookshelves and TVs should be secured to prevent tipping. All seats should also have arm rests. These provide support when a loved one goes from a sitting to a standing position and vice versa.
Consider Assisted Living Options
While you may want a loved one with dementia to stay at home where they are safest, that is not always an option, especially in cases where it is difficult to hire a caregiver or to have a family member living with them. In these cases, the best way to keep a loved one safe is to consider assisted living options.
These are homes where people with dementia receive the care they need and have someone available to assist them with different tasks that may pose a danger. A great example is taking a shower where a loved one might be at risk of slipping in the bathroom and would need someone to be there to assist them. Facilities like Brandywine Living provide a safe living environment which is a lot more reassuring than having a loved one living alone at home. They have nurses and other professionals taking care of people living with dementia to ensure that not only are all their needs met, but also that they are safe.
Watch the Temperature
Some people living with dementia have a hard time gauging temperature. This can lead to burns and serious injury. One area to change is in the bathroom where you can use a thermostat to ensure the water is not too hot. Also, ensure that timers for the microwave can only be set for short durations to ensure their food does not get too hot.
Laundry Room Safety
Cleaning products are very dangerous if ingested. Liquid laundry packs, bleach and other cleaning products should always be kept out of sight, ideally locked up in a cabinet. Also, talk to a professional to find out if you can have safety locks installed on all washing machine and dryers. These can prevent your loved one from putting inappropriate items into the washing machine or dryer. These locks can also prevent your loved one from putting or removing things from the washer or dryer at the wrong time.
Garage and Basement Safety
Ideally, a loved one with dementia should not have access to the garage and basement, especially if you store equipment, fuel, cleaning products or any dangerous items in there. You should limit access to equipment such as weed trimmers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers to prevent injuries. You should also consider installing a motion sensor on the garage door so you know when a loved one accesses the garage or basement.
Avoid Making the Home Too Restrictive
Many of the changes you can implement to make the home as safe as possible can leave it feeling a bit restrictive. All the changes you make should still allow for independence and social interactions. Leave areas for different activities because not doing so can lead to aggression which leads to safety issues.
Taking care of a loved one with dementia is often about catering to their needs in a way that is not too intrusive and that ensures they are as comfortable as possible. Making the necessary changes to keep them safe and away from harm while still enabling them to get the help they need when they need it are all great ways to show that you care.