Other safety issues to consider
Evaluate your loved one's balance; coordination; strength; and ability to walk, sit and stand by herself or with assistance. Is she able to get in and out of a chair unassisted, or would a lift chair help? Is it time to stop using chairs that swivel or have wheels?
If you are considering a small home elevator or a stair lift with a seat, determine whether your loved one can understand how to safely use them and if you can help. And if you make changes, remember that people who have dementia may take more time to adjust or may not be able to adjust.
Check for all fall hazards, including loose rugs, poor lighting, stairs, clutter, no handrails, or uneven flooring or pavement. If you have animals, keep their food, water dishes, leashes and pet doors away from areas where your loved one might walk and potentially trip.
Over time you will likely need to adjust medication management multiple times. You may start by filling a pill organizer for your loved one and storing the medication bottles in a safe place so they aren't mistaken for food or taken incorrectly. If your family member is unable to remember to take prescriptions, you might set up a notification or reminder system.
Kitchen safety can be beautiful, too.
Storage of dangerous items
Depending on your loved one's current abilities, make sure that everything from cleaning supplies to medications to food, alcohol, car keys, smoking materials, matches and lighters, tools and scissors are stored in safe places. Be especially careful about removing or storing firearms, knives, or other weapons or dangerous materials in cabinets or closets with locks that are difficult or impossible to open.
Your loved one may be at higher risk for identity theft or other forms of fraud. Consider placing a "No Solicitations" sign on the front door. Help sort mail, and monitor calls to try to prevent the individual from getting caught up in phone scams. In addition, register home and mobile phones with the National Do Not Call Registry.
If your loved one is able to use a computer, ensure that all computer security and safety precautions are in place and kept updated.
Having others in the home
You may hire professionals to help care for your loved one, or volunteers may come in to spend time with her. Be sure you conduct background checks and obtain references for these people. Assess their skills, making sure they are well trained, so as to keep your loved one out of danger and free from the risk of worker theft.
Leaving the home unattended
This is a top concern for people caring for a loved one with dementia. I address it extensively in another article, "6 Ways to Prevent Someone With Dementia From Wandering or Getting Lost."
Would your loved one know what to do if they are alone in an emergency, or if something happens to you? If so, do you have emergency phone numbers prominently placed? If your loved one is still able to be left alone, be sure your contact information is displayed so emergency personnel will see it and contact you. Who, besides you, can be contacted?
Grandpa With Alzheimer’s Thrives Making TikTok Videos
Consider these other steps to bolster general household safety:
- Make sure that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in place and batteries are checked and replaced regularly. You should have fire extinguishers mounted on walls and easy to access.
- If you use a security system, inform the company that a person with dementia lives there, and also notify your local fire and police departments.
- Consider removing locks from bedroom and bathroom doors, since someone with dementia might accidentally lock himself in (or you out).
- Check appliances frequently to ensure they are in working order, or consider not using them if your loved one is confused about them or apt to use them unsafely. Ones to keep an eye on are garbage disposals, blenders, toasters, portable space heaters, power tools, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, electric blankets and heating pads, vaporizers, aromatherapy diffusers and gas fireplaces.
You may not have to make all of these changes for your loved one — dementia develops uniquely for each person who has it. But it's critical that you evaluate all of these issues repeatedly as the disease progresses. Start by assessing your loved one's abilities while keeping an eye on the future.