There are many responsibilities when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Medical appointments and other healthcare needs rightfully take most of the focus. Significant attention is also usually given to managing their finances, enabling social activities, and keeping legal matters in check. With all of these challenges, one important consideration that can be easily overlooked is keeping the residence safe and comfortable for the affected person as the disease advances.
Dementia causes several changes in the body and mind that result in continuously evolving threats to their personal safety. The most publicized symptoms, forgetfulness, and confusion can be accompanied by impairments in balance, motor control, judgment, and disorders of the senses. This makes for a considerable challenge when it comes to safeguarding the home. Here, we offer a sample of the many ways in which this may be accomplished.
Tips for Preparing the Home for Someone With Dementia
- Level-off floor areas that could be tripping threats, like the transitions between rooms
- Keep all walkways free of clutter and slippery items like unsecured rugs
- Soften sharp corners with padding or rounded trim
- Put away potentially dangerous objects like tools, chemicals, utensils, and weapons
- Install door and cupboard locks in hard to reach places where appropriate
- Avoid locks on bathroom doors (so they cannot lock themselves in)
- Place alarms and/or motion sensors on doors
- Enhance lighting in all areas, especially the bedroom, bathroom, and halls
- Put large digital clocks in several easy to see places
- Disconnect the stove and similar appliances when not in use
- Hide car keys from those who may attempt to drive when no longer capable
- Renovate the bathroom, adding grab-bars and a shower bench at minimum
- Obtaining a medical bed will likely be necessary during later stages
These tips are general in nature and are meant to be applicable to most homes. However, each home is unique, so there may be areas that need special attention. Garages, basements, patios, and other additions should be evaluated for threats, especially if the person with dementia enjoys being in any of these places. Staircases and steps should be evaluated, with railings or barricades being installed if deemed necessary. Modifications to outdoor areas may also be required, particularly in relation to lighting and mobility.
Do Not Wait for an Accident
Safeguarding the home for someone with dementia also has benefits for the caregiver(s). Improved visibility and cleared walkways will make it easier to perform daily activities, and they will be less likely to experience an injury of their own. Perhaps most importantly, it will give them the peace of mind that they are doing everything in their power to improve the quality of life for their ailing loved one.
Due to the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, home environments that may seem perfectly safe one week can become extremely dangerous the next. Some of the above suggestions may not appear to be necessary until there has already been an incident, so it is advisable to implement as many changes as possible early in the diagnosis. The BrainTest® app can help detect the signs of impending Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, allowing for early treatments, and maximizing the time available to make the home safe.