Home Safety Measures For Alzheimer’s Patients, Is It Possible?
Home safety measures for Alzheimer’s patients is a constant concern for their families and caregivers. But according to the National Institute for Aging, (NIA) home safety can be accomplished by following several of their guidelines.
Why is home safety so important for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients? The reason is that over time, these patients are unable to cope and carry out the simplest of tasks. For example, they may forget to turn off the oven or the water, or how to use the phone during an emergency. They become a danger to themselves as well as anyone living near them. They have trouble walking and are therefore susceptible to falls and broken bones.
Therefore, for families who want their loved one to be with them instead of placing them into a facility, it’s important to make the home as safe as possible. As a caregiver, you can do many things to make the Alzheimer’s home a safer place. Prevention will help avoid accidents by controlling possible problems.
To accomplish this, several alterations to the home will need to be installed. What follows are several guidelines that can help you make their home safer.
Home Safety Measures: Safety First
As a caregiver, you should add the following items to the home if they are not already in place:
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in or near the kitchen and in all bedrooms
- Emergency phone numbers (ambulance, poison control, doctors, hospital, etc.) and the person’s address near all phones
- Safety knobs and an automatic shut-off switch on the stove
- Childproof plugs for unused electrical outlets and childproof latches on cabinet doors
These products are carried by stores selling hardware, electronics, medical supplies, and children’s items.
Next, lock up or remove these potentially dangerous items from the home:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medicines
- Cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches
- Poisonous plants—contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or www.poison.org to find out which houseplants are poisonous
- Guns and other weapons, scissors, knives, power tools, and machinery
- Gasoline cans and other dangerous items in the garage
Home Safety Measures: Moving Around the House
As Alzheimer’s patients are very susceptible to falls, these tips will help prevent them and avoid debilitating injuries:
- Minimize the number of furniture items around the house. The less obstacles, the better. Make it easy to get around.
- Get rid of clutter, such as piles of newspapers and magazines.
- Install sturdy handrails on all stairways.
- Put carpet on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so the person can see them more easily.
- Put a gate across the stairs if the person has balance problems.
- Remove small throw rugs. Use rugs with nonskid backing instead.
- Make sure cords to electrical outlets are out of the way or tacked to baseboards.
- Clean up spills right away.
Floor traction is super important. To make floors less slippery, leave floors unpolished or install nonskid strips. Shoes and slippers with good traction also help the person move around safely.
Home Safety Measures: Minimize Danger
People with Alzheimer’s disease may not see, smell, touch, hear, and/or taste things as they used to. You can do things around the house to make life safer and easier for the person.
Although there may be nothing physically wrong with their eyes, people with Alzheimer’s may no longer be able to interpret accurately what they see. Their sense of perception and depth may be altered, too. These changes can cause safety concerns.
- Make floors and walls different colors. This creates contrast and makes it easier for the person to see.
- Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
- Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so people can see the steps as they go up or down stairs.
- Use brightly colored signs or simple pictures to label the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen.
- Be careful about small pets. The person with Alzheimer’s may not see the pet and trip over it.
- Limit the size and number of mirrors in your home, and think about where to put them. Mirror images may confuse the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Use dishes and place mats in contrasting colors for easier identification.
Home Safety Measures: Touching
People with Alzheimer’s may experience loss of sensation or may no longer be able to interpret feelings of heat, cold, or discomfort.
- Reset your water heater to 120°F to prevent burns.
- Label hot-water faucets red and cold-water faucets blue or write the words “hot” and “cold” near them.
- Put signs near the oven, toaster, iron, and other things that get hot. The sign could say, “Stop!” or “Don’t Touch—Very Hot!” Be sure the sign is not so close that it could catch on fire. The person with Alzheimer’s should not use appliances without supervision. Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Pad any sharp corners on your furniture, or replace or remove furniture with sharp corners.
- Test the water to make sure it is a comfortable temperature before the person gets into the bath or shower.
People with Alzheimer’s may not taste as well as before. They also may place dangerous or inappropriate things in their mouths.
- Keep foods like salt, sugar, and spices away from the person if you see him or her using too much.
- Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, perfume, or laundry detergent pods. They may look and smell like food to a person with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Keep the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) by the phone.
- Learn what to do if the person chokes on something. Check with your local hospital or Red Cross chapter about health or safety classes.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may have normal hearing, but they may lose their ability to interpret what they hear accurately. This loss can result in confusion or over stimulation.
- Don’t play the TV, radio, or music too loudly, and don’t play them at the same time. Loud music or too many different sounds may be too much for the person with Alzheimer’s to handle.
- Limit the number of people who visit at any one time. If there is a party, settle the person with Alzheimer’s in an area with fewer people.
- Shut the windows if it’s very noisy outside.
- If the person wears a hearing aid, check the batteries and settings often.