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Alzheimer's disease and safety in the home: A few tips
Some tips for managing home safety with a person with Alzheimer's disease.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, you may find yourself worrying about his or her safety, especially when alone in the home. This month, we are sharing some tips to adapt your home or facilitate daily life for a person with cognitive impairments.
First, it is important to truly understand your loved one’s situation. The causes of difficulties in daily activities are not necessarily the same from one person to the next. By asking yourself the right questions, you will be able to better direct the actions to take.
- What are my loved one's challenges? Is he experiencing memory or attention problems? Is her judgment impaired or balance precarious? Is his visual perception altered (e.g., assessing distances or differentiating colours)? Is she sometimes disoriented in time or space?
- What are the potential hazards in the physical environment of the home?
Please note that the tips we are sharing here are examples and they may or may not apply to your situation or that of your loved one.
In the kitchen
- Use equipment that turns off automatically (e.g., kettle, coffee maker).
- There are also automatic shut-off devices for the stove. If you are worried about your loved one using the stove, you can remove the control buttons, install an external switch out of sight or simply unplug it.
- Use a simple microwave with pre-set cook times (e.g., 30 seconds) and apply an identifier, for example a coloured sticker, on the button to be used.
- Make sure that you have an extinguisher nearby and visible.
- Place knives and household items out of reach and, if need be, install drawer locks like those used for children.
In the bathroom
- Remove the locks to prevent your loved one from accidentally getting locked in.
- Leave in sight only items that are essential for your loved one’s daily care (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and towel).
- Place a non-slip mat in the bath and install safety bars for the bath and toilet.
- Place medications and supplements (prescription medications, vitamins, natural products, etc.) out of sight or in a locked cabinet.
- To help with orientation in time, install a calendar and a clock in a prominent location.
- Place a list of important numbers (write legibly) near telephones.
- If you are afraid that your loved one will go outside and wander off, make sure that he always has his personal information and important telephone numbers on him. Look into the MedicAlert Safely Home program offered by the Alzheimer societies.
- Placing a strip of red tape on the floors may help dissuade your loved one from going into certain areas of the house (e.g., entrance to basement stairs, closet).
There are as many tips as there are different people and environments. So, do not hesitate to check out the links below for more information. Moreover, consulting a professional such as an occupational therapist can help you identify the most suitable solutions for your loved one's situation, to maximize safety in the home without restricting your loved one’s remaining independence and abilities.
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