06 Mar Creating a Safe Home Environment for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
Guest post by Lydia Chan, Alzheimerscaregiver.net
There’s very little room for error in your home if you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The degenerative disease that impairs memory and cognitive functioning leaves one vulnerable to confusion and highly susceptible to accidents. That means adjustments have to be made in every room to prevent a potentially catastrophic accident. Something as innocuous as a small footstool or a misplaced shoe could lead to a fall and broken bones, especially if your loved one is in an advanced state of dementia. There are home safety modifications that can be made in every room to create a safe living environment for an Alzheimer’s patient.
Statistically speaking, the bathroom is where most home accidents occur. Moisture, a tile floor, and hard-edged objects are a dangerous combination unless precautions are taken to protect an individual with dementia. Install a chair and grab bars in your shower area so your care subject has a reliable means of supporting herself on a slippery surface. The floor of your shower or bathtub should have a nonskid mat or strips, as should the area around the toilet and sink unless the floor is carpeted. Bear in mind that installing a walk-in shower can significantly reduce the likelihood of falls in the bathroom.
People who slip and fall in the tub often suffer serious head injuries when they impact the faucet, so make sure yours has a rubber covering. All medications and cleaning fluids should be locked away in a cabinet, and door locks should be removed to keep a disoriented Alzheimer’s patient from accidentally getting locked in the bathroom. Scalding is another common accident in the bathroom, so make sure the water heater thermostat is set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sharp objects and electric appliances are the most serious threats to your loved one’s safety in the kitchen. Consider installing niches at eye level for your microwave and other appliances to make them difficult to reach. A person with dementia could start a fire trying to use the oven or stove, so keep the knobs covered with safety devices to prevent access. Always make sure there’s a functional fire extinguisher within easy reach in the kitchen. Unplug the toaster and toaster oven to prevent burns and keep a loved one from getting hurt by inserting a metal utensil.
Kitchen cleaning products, alcohol, and any other dangerous liquid that could be confused as water should be kept safely stored out of reach. Install safety latches on drawers and cabinet doors to keep items such as sharp knives, skewers, and corkscrews inaccessible. Knife stands should also be stored away.
The bedroom is another potential danger area, particularly at times when your loved one is unsupervised. Install a visual monitor so you can keep a watch on her actions (consider doing this in every room if your family member has advanced dementia). And install handrails along the walls and in the hallway to help prevent falls.
Making entry and exit points as safe as possible is a necessity, especially if your care subject has a mobility assistive device. Level the surface between your entry hallway and porch if possible, and consider installing a safety ramp if your front stairs are difficult to climb. Always use reliable tools, including a dependable and handy tape measure, if you take on a modification of this magnitude. Otherwise, install padding on the edge of each exterior step.
Planning for the future
The best time to discuss any future care or medical arrangements is before your family member’s condition progresses. They may need to make decisions about disposing their estate and what kind of care they might need once they’re unable to think clearly. Involve your relative’s next of kin (if that isn’t you) in the discussion so that everyone is aware of the situation and of any decisions that come from this conversation.
Preparation is essential in protecting a family member with Alzheimer’s from injury. The level of home modifications may depend on the severity of her condition, but remember there are many simple modifications that can always be made to safeguard an individual with dementia.
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