As an increasing number of families find themselves caring for loved ones suffering from dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and other diseases, it’s important for family caregivers to understand how to keep patients safe in their homes. Here are some helpful home safety and dementia tips if you or someone you know is providing care to a loved one with dementia:
Regularly assess the patient to ensure the current level of home safety and dementia care is appropriate. This includes answering the following questions:
- Can the person recognize a dangerous situation, like a fire?
- Does he or she know how to use a telephone?
- How content is he or she at home?
- Is your loved one exhibiting signs of agitation, depression or withdrawal?
- Is the person prone to wander?
- Is his or her confusion increasing?
Secure the home Many persons suffering from some form of dementia – especially in advanced stages — are prone to wandering. To minimize the risk of wandering, install alarms on all doors and windows that will sound and alert caregivers if they are opened. Placing “STOP” signs on all doors leading to the outside can act as visible reminders to patients that he or she should go no further and stay in the home. And, of course, keep any car keys out of sight.
Prepare for the possibility of wandering Even the best plans for keeping a loved one safe can go awry. If a loved one suffering from dementia is especially adept at wandering, have him or her wear an ID bracelet with contact information, ask neighbors and others in the area to alert you or other caregivers if they spot the patient someplace where they should not be. Enclose or fence off any potentially dangerous areas such as stairways, a deck, or pool. Finally, consider giving the person a personal GPS device or GPS-enabled cell phone that would enable him or her to be tracked electronically.
Take precautions within the home Once the risk of the patient leaving the home has been minimized, it’s important to reduce the possibility of harm occurring within the home. That includes:
- Removing or securing any objects that might cause the patient to trip and fall or accidently hit something
- Lowering the hot water temperature
- Safely and securely storing all medicines, alcohol, sharp objects
- Removing or securing any potentially poisonous materials such as cleaning products
- Securing and storing any firearms and ammunition separately
- Removing stove knobs, if necessary
At Metropolitan Home Health Services, we specialize in providing a wide range of home health services, including home safety and dementia consulting and care, to support patients and the at-home and professional care providers who care for them.