Caring for a parent or loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s disease at home can be rewarding but also challenging. While the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s maybe mild, the disease can progress rather quickly and bring on new sets of challenging situations you may not be prepared for. If your elderly loved one wishes to stay at home, you must take every precaution to keep them safe. The following in-home Alzheimer’s care tips will teach you how to keep your loved one out of harm’s way.
How to Create a Safe Home Environment for Alzheimer’s Patients
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people living with Alzheimer’s at home can remain in place as long as proper safety measures are implemented. Whether your loved one is forgetful, tends to wander off, has problems with mobility, or is losing their vision, hearing or sense of touch, these home safety tips can help keep them safe and out of the hospital.
- Hazardous Items. Ensure that basements, garages, and other areas of the home are free of dangerous tools, chemical cleaning supplies, matches, scissors, knives, weapons or items that could be hazardous to someone living with AD. Limit access to these items by locking them up out of reach using childproof latches.
- Vehicles and Keys. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, they shouldn’t be driving but this doesn’t mean they won’t try. Always lock up vehicles or store them away along with any keys to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring.
- Medications. Always lock up medications and use pill organizers. Enlisting the help of a trained home health aide can ensure medications are dispensed safely and taken at the right times.
- Kitchen Safety. Kitchen appliances can be hazardous to anyone. You can prevent serious injuries to an Alzheimer’s patient by locking smaller electrical appliances away. As for the stove, installing safety knobs, removing knobs, or adding a hidden gas valve on the stove can prevent burns and fires. Appliances that automatically shut off can also be helpful if you’re willing to install them. You should also disconnect the garbage disposal to prevent injury and remove any fake food items or food-shaped magnets (an Alzheimer’s patient may think they are edible). Be sure to also lock away sugar substitutes and seasonings.
- Bedroom Safety. If you live with your loved one, you can easily monitor falls or distress at night by using a baby monitor. During cold nights, it’s also best to be cautious when using heating devices. Remove portable space heaters as your loved one could burn themselves. And if they must use an electric blanket or heating pad, keep controls out of your loved one’s reach.
- Living Room Safety. Keep floors and surfaces free from clutter; remove old newspapers, magazines, and decorative objects that could be hazardous. Remove any tripping hazards such as rugs, cables, and floor lamps.You should also be mindful about keeping walkways free from furniture to prevent unnecessary falls and injuries. If your loved one cares for plants, it is best to be cautious and remove them. Some plants are toxic if eaten. And whatever you do, don’t leave your loved one unattended if you have a fire going in the fireplace. Cover the fireplace when it isn’t in use and keep all matches, lighters, and fireplace tools safely locked away.
- Bathroom Safety. Installing walk-in showers, grab bars in the bathtub, and grab bars at the edge of bathroom vanities can help Alzheimer’s patients avoid injuries and falls. If you must have rugs in the bathroom, apply a good adhesive to ward off slips. Adding textured stickers to slippery surfaces such as the bottom of the bathtub can also help prevent falls while bathing and showering.
- Laundry Room Safety. The laundry room can be a particularly hazardous area of any home. Prevent access to the washer and dryer by installing child safety latches, secure away all cleaning products, and keep the door locked if possible. Posting the number to poison control on the laundry room wall can also be helpful if an emergency occurs.
- Windows and Glass Doors. Be sure to mark windows and glass doors by placing a decal at eye-level so your loved one can see them clearly.
- Water Temperature. Sometimes Alzheimer’s patients can’t decipher the difference between hot and cold temperatures. To help prevent icy cold showers and burns, install an automatic thermometer to keep water temperature regulated throughout your loved one’s home.
- Lighting. Well-lit walkways can help prevent injuries. Add extra lights to outdoor walkways, entryways, doorways, stairwells, and anywhere else that needs better illumination. Night lights should also be used to reduce disorientation.
- Doors and Locks. For easy access to your loved one’s home, it may be wise to keep an extra set of keys hidden by the front or back door. Removing locks from bedrooms and bathrooms can also help prevent an Alzheimer’s patient from becoming locked inside.
- Safety Devices. Ensure that all safety devices are working properly at all times by doing occasional maintenance checks. Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers should always be in working order.
Preparing for Alzheimer’s-Related Emergencies
Sometimes you can prepare a loved one’s home perfectly but still have an Alzheimer’s-related emergency occur. When this happens, you must be ready and equipped by following these precautionary measures:
- Contact Information. Keep a list of all emergency phone numbers and addresses (police, fire, poison control, nearest hospital) within plain sight. Your loved one’s primary caregiver and medical specialists should also be listed.
- Emergency Kit. Keep an emergency kit somewhere that you or another caregiver can easily grab it on the way to the hospital. The kit should include lists containing current medications, previous illnesses and diagnosis, medication allergies and contact details of your loved one’s primary and consulting doctors. The kit should also include important documents like health insurance cards, your loved one’s will, and their photo ID. Other items that can make a trip to the hospital run more smoothly may include reading glasses, hearing aids, and asthma-related items.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Patients from Wandering
If your loved one has a tendency of wandering away from home, it can turn into a scary situation for you and the patient. You can limit wandering and protect an Alzheimer’s patient from becoming lost or hurt by following these helpful tips.
- Secure exterior doors. Place deadbolts high or low (somewhere out of sight) on all exterior doors to keep your loved one from wandering off.
- Install a door alarm with a keypad. Elderly alert systems are ideal for preventing Alzheimer’s patients from wandering. They sound a loud alarm at the door if people try to exit without punching in a secret code.
- Ensure your loved one wears a medical alert ID bracelet. These bracelets can be a great solution for Alzheimer’s patients who may forget to keep their photo ID on them.
- Enroll in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program. This program will help alert others to your loved one’s medical condition if they get lost and are unable to communicate properly.
- Notify neighbors and local authorities of your loved one’s condition. When people in the community know about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnoses, recovery time can be much quicker if they do end up wandering off.
In-Home Alzheimer’s Care Services
People living at home with Alzheimer’s disease have varying symptoms that progress differently. Entrusting a home care agency to look after your loved one can ensure that they are taken care of and remain safe when you can’t be there. We provide customized senior home care services that are carried out by trained specialists and experienced caregivers, so your loved one can remain secure at home and live a more independent life. Contact us for a home health care assessment today.