Caring for a loved one with dementia requires both an understanding of the unique challenges posed by the disease and a plan to maximize safety and security on a day-to-day basis. Here are some tips that can enhance safety in a variety of settings:
Prevent falls in the bathroom. As indicated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s article, Staying Safe: Steps to Take for a Person with Dementia, “most accidents in the home occur during daily activities such as eating, bathing, and using the restroom.” To create a safer bathroom, attach textured stickers to slippery surfaces and secure throw rugs and carpeting. If practical, install a walk-in shower with grab bars for safe bathing.
Safeguard appliances and secure hazardous items in the home. Take steps to ensure that your house is as hazard-free as possible. Doing so may entail:
- Finding a safe and secure place to store grills, lawn mowers, knives and cleaning products.
- Buying appliances with an automatic turn-off feature.
- Removing the knobs from the stove.
- Locking up medications.
- Hiding vitamins, sugar substitutes and seasonings.
Minimize wandering and getting lost outside. Six in 10 people with dementia will wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association; this behavior poses obvious safety risks. However, there are many things you can do to help minimize the problem. If your loved one is prone to wandering, consider taking the following steps:
- Deadbolt the top and bottom of doors to minimize nighttime wandering.
- Create daily agendas filled with structured, meaningful activities.
- Encourage exercise to reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Keep your loved one busy with daily household tasks.
- Console your loved one during times of feeling lost, abandoned or disoriented.
- Install a GPS device in the car (for people who drive) or hide the car keys (for people who do not drive).
- Avoid busy places, such as shopping malls, which may create confusion and disorientation.
- Supervise your loved one whenever possible.
Travel to destinations with safety in mind. Traveling with your loved one can be a safe, enjoyable experience if you plan ahead (visit our blog post, Tips when Traveling with a Loved One who has Alzheimer’s Disease for useful traveling tips). When traveling, make sure you:
- Travel at a time of day that makes your loved one most comfortable.
- Inform hotel staff about your loved one’s unique needs, preferably ahead of time.
- Make copies of important documents.
- Bring medications, bottled water and snacks.
- Plan activities before departure.
- Visit familiar places with minimal changes to daily routine.
- Enroll in MedicAlert + Safe Return. (People with dementia may wander when they find themselves in new and unfamiliar environments.)
- When traveling by air, inform the TSA that you’re traveling with a person with dementia at least 72 hours prior to your flight. Use a wheelchair to navigate the airport, ask airport employees and in-flight crews for assistance and stay close to your loved one at all times.
It takes an involved caregiver to help a person living with dementia experience a safe and independent lifestyle at home and out in the world. Follow the safety tips listed above so that everyday life stays enjoyable for both of you for years to come.