Individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s rely on their loved ones and caregivers to ensure their safety. Without proper supervision and safety precautions in place, dementia sufferers often find themselves in dangerous and even life-threatening situations. For example, they may forget to turn off a stove burner, resulting in a house fire, or they might get confused and wander out of the house alone.
Because of these risks, the family members of dementia sufferers frequently feel that they have no choice but to place their loved one in a nursing home or supervised care facility. However, individuals who are still in the earlier stages of the disease can often maintain some independence and continue to live at home or with family members — provided some important safety precautions are put in place.
First, you need to make sure that the individual cannot access dangerous items, such as insecticides and other chemicals, toxic cleaning supplies, power tools, lighters and matches, weapons, and medications. Store these types of items in locked cabinets and ensure that the keys are not easily accessible. You may also want to use child-safety locks on cabinets and drawers that contain potentially dangerous items.
At the bare minimum, test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly to make sure that they will work in an emergency. You should also keep at least one fire extinguisher readily available. However, there are all types of smart home devices that can also help you keep your loved one safe — and even make their life easier.
For example, a smart watch can track the individual's location and movements, while home monitoring or security devices can alert you to opened doors and windows or even let you keep an eye on your loved one. You can also use a stove monitoring device that provides an auto-shutoff function and allows you to control the appliance remotely.
Dementia patients may have difficulty navigating their environment, so spaces should be open and easy to walk through, with no heavy rugs or cords that are easy to trip on. Large pieces of furniture should be secured to prevent tipping if the individual grabs onto them to steady themselves. Lighting is also important, especially if the individual has poor eyesight. Make sure that all rooms and hallways can be well lit both day and night.
There are many different ways to prevent or discourage dementia sufferers from wandering out of the home. Most importantly, you should install sturdy locks either significantly lower or higher on the door than normal — outside of eye level — and don’t leave the keys in a visible, easily accessed place. You can also hang a curtain or tapestry in front of the door to camouflage it and install child safety devices on the doorknobs. A standard stop sign mounted on the door may also be effective.
However, you should have other precautions in place in case these tools fail. So speak to neighbors about the situation and have them call if they see your loved one wander out of the home. Wearable devices can also help you track the person down if they do leave, and an ID bracelet will allow others to identify your loved one if they are found wandering.
You can’t be by your loved one’s side 24/7, but you can employ a full or part-time caregiver to regularly check up on them and be there when you can’t be. An in-home caregiver can assist your loved one with things like daily tasks, hygiene, preparing meals, medication compliance, and ensuring their overall safety.
At Right Hand Senior Care, our caregivers have the experience, training, and expertise to support and care for sufferers of dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you would like more information on our services, feel free to contact us at (insert phone) or (insert email).