Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be a challenge. Sometimes a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may feel confused and frightened. The individual’s behavior can affect their own safety as well as the safety of others. By creating a safe environment, you can help the person feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed and keep others in the environment safe as well.
As you assess the environment, try to see things from the perspective of the person with dementia. A person with dementia may not understand expected actions and behaviors. For example, the person may not remember why it is important to dress for the weather, or why it is necessary to turn off appliances when they are not in use. Rather than trying to restrain the person, you may be more successful and reduce tension by taking preventative actions.
Here are some things to consider:
- Keep communication on an adult level. The person was once high functioning and deserves our respect. You may need to simply remove items that could be harmful.
- Be patient. The person with dementia is unable to process thoughts quickly. You will need to slow down to a pace of speaking and movement they can follow.
- Simplify routines. Remember that many accidents happen in the process of performing activities of daily living such as toileting, bathing, dressing, and taking medications.
- Create an emergency plan. Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and post it near the phone.
Be realistic about what you can expect of yourself and your loved one. You will never be able to foresee every risk or prevent every problem.
Easy Safety Solutions
You can adapt your home in such a way that all family members can feel safe and comfortable. First, consider your environment in terms of safety areas. Some areas should always be avoided by the person with dementia such as the garage, the basement, and the closets. These are areas where toxic or dangerous items may be stored. We’ll refer to these areas as “Danger Zones.” Danger zones need to be locked, alarmed, or controlled by wander-prevention devices.
Next, you’ll need to have an area where the caregiver can go to be alone. “Burn Out” is a common problem for caregivers who are never able to remove themselves from the caregiver role. So you need a place where you can get away and relax. We’ll refer to this area as the “Respite Zone.” Your respite zone can be used when someone else is watching the person with dementia.
Finally, you will need to create an area where the person with dementia is free to roam, rummage, and hide things. This area will need to be treated for safety so it is accessible to the person with dementia. We’ll refer to this area as the “Safe Zone.” Safety precautions will be necessary in this area such as using “child-proof” plug outlets, removing medicines, dangerous tools, appliances, and chemicals. Also remove important documents and valuable or breakable items.
Below are some easy solutions for each of the areas in your home:
The Danger Zone
The danger zone should be out of bounds for the person with dementia. Keep danger zones locked, alarmed, or controlled by wander-prevention devices. You may also try securing a black mat in front of doors to danger zones. The black mat may be perceived by a person with poor depth perception as a hole to be avoided. A secured black mat may also be used in front of exit doors to prevent night time wandering.
The Respite Zone
Your respite zone needs to be a place where you are accessible, but free from unnecessary interruption. You will want to have a phone handy. Instruct your caregiver assistant that you should only be disturbed in case of an emergency.
The Safe Zone
In Stairways, Hallways, Pathways
- Have handrails on both sides of the stairs and keep them tightly fastened.
- Make sure there is good lighting with switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Keep areas where you walk tidy.
- Check that all carpets are fixed. Put no-slip strips on tile and wooden floors.
- Don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs.
- Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
- Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Remember to turn on night lights.
In the Bedroom
- Put night lights and switches close to the bed.
- Keep a telephone near beds.
In Other Living Areas
- Keep electric cords and telephone wires near walls and away from walking paths.
- Tack down all carpets and large area rugs firmly to the floor.
- Arrange your furniture and other objects so they are out of walkways. Do not rearrange furniture unnecessarily.
- Make sure sofas and chairs are the right height for your loved one to get in and out of easily.
- Don’t walk on newly washed floors.
- Keep items your loved one uses frequently within easy reach.
- Don’t put items out of reach. If the person with dementia should not touch it, remove it from the room.
- Know where your pet is whenever the person with dementia is standing or walking.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each telephone.
Click the link below to download a printed catalog with some suggested safety items.