Alzheimer’s Disease, and other dementia diagnoses, can make daily life extremely difficult for those living with the disease. Typical life events, like cooking breakfast or settling in for bed at night, can get twisted and confused in a brain with dementia. Along with memory loss, judgment skills can also be affected which can lead to unsafe situations around the home or community.
If your loved one is living at home and with memory loss issues, it is wise to assure that the home is accident proof as much as possible. Taking a few moments to add some safety precautions can save your loved one time, dignity, and even serious injury. Here are a few of our tried and true starting points.
Safety for the stove
Mom may forget to turn off the stove after she has cooked her eggs, and fires can start quickly with just one absent minded move. Look for stove locks or something more advanced like a stove shut down system that can start fire prevention precautions as soon as it senses smoke.
For a senior who previously loved to cook or was fond of making a cup of tea, locking cupboards or simply putting kettles and cookware out of sight can be a deterrent to stove mishaps, especially if they have recently moved from their own home into yours.
Remember to have a smoke and carbon monoxide detector installed in your cooking area if one is not already there, and to equip your kitchen with a fire extinguisher so that if an unsafe situation does happen, the household is alerted and prepared to respond before it becomes a disaster.
Safety for medications
Seniors with memory issues can end up skipping medication or doubling doses when they cannot remember if they took their pills for the day. Pill cases are advanced these days, offering options like verbal reminders and locking. Find one that suits the needs of your loved one and then fill the case appropriately once per week or provide a reminder and unobtrusive supervision while they do it themselves.
Safety for exits
Wandering, or walking without purpose, is a common side effect of dementia. Sleep disturbances are also a common companion of a dementia diagnosis. Unfortunately, these two can combine for late night wandering in, and out, of the home. In order to prevent any exits from the home, invest in an alert system for your front and back doors. Systems have many options to choose from; some require a numerical code to be pushed in before opening while others simply sound a loud alarm if someone opens the door.
Safety from falls
Any senior friendly home - memory loss issue or not - should include safety measures in the bathroom that prevent falls. Grab bars in the shower and near the toilet are best practice, as are slip free rugs. A shower chair can be especially helpful for seniors who have decreased strength or balance, and there should be slip proof flooring in the shower.
Safety from missed routines
Safety doesn’t always need to feature an alarm. In fact, most seniors with early stage dementia find great relief in routine and simple cues. Post-it notes on the fridge that offer reminders about what is for lunch or a daily calendar with space to check off items on a to-do list can offer seniors concrete cueing to maintain their normal routines when alone.
When it isn’t enough
Memory issues, like Alzheimer’s Disease, are progressive. This means that eventually, the judgment and safety concerns will require more assistance than the home can offer. Thankfully, senior care communities have progressed light years from nursing homes of your grandma’s day. Memory care communities feature specialized programming and dining experiences along with highly trained caregivers to assure that seniors age with dignity, grace, and safety. These communities offer peace of mind and support to residents and concerned family members alike.
Remaining at home while aging with dementia can be stressful on the senior and the loved ones, even with responsible safety precautions. Consider memory care communities sooner rather than later so that your loved one can get the enhanced care that he needs.