Caregivers’ Corner: Home Safety for Alzheimer’sJun 15th, 2009 | By Joan Jackson | Category: Safe, Sound and Savvy
When our two-year-old grandson comes to visit, we always do a room-by-room sweep – removing breakables, fastening cabinets, checking baby plugs and securing the stairs – trying to use eyes of a detective to make sure our home is safe for the little guy. It seems that he careens one step ahead of us, finding that one thing we have forgotten.
If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia, you also need detective skills to make sure your home is safe for your loved one. There are some very good home safety checklists available from the Area 12 Agency on Aging (532-6272) or go online and search “home safety for Alzheimer’s.” Each one is a bit different, but they’re a great start for building your personalized home safety list.
In general, you need to keep your home as simple, organized and clear as possible.
· Remove what you can live without and once you’ve organized furnishings into safe, easy travel patterns, don’t move them.
· Consider installing handrails, ramps and other devices.
· Increase lighting throughout the house and add nightlights for after dark.
· Install locks on cabinets or use other means to secure sharp kitchen tools, hazardous materials (from drain cleaner to alcoholic beverages), all weapons, and outdoor tools. If you can remove them from your home, even better.
· To prevent wandering, secure outside doors with keyed deadbolts or latches that are extra high or extra low. Put safety covers on doorknobs.
· Keep a front door key handy outside in case your feisty loved one locks you out. Also take locks off of bathroom doors so you can’t be locked out.
While this list gives you a few examples, it is by no means complete. Reassess your total home environment periodically – perhaps with the fresh perspective of a sharp-eyed family member or friend. As dementia progresses, new safety issues will arise. A bar of soap may be mistaken for food. The pretty crystal vase filled with flowers becomes a tipping or throwing hazard when the disease triggers a temper tantrum.
One family caregiver describes leaving her peacefully occupied husband alone briefly to attend to an important task in another room. Only a few minutes later, an explosion in the backyard had her racing outside to find her husband – a high-powered and inventive man, now with dementia – about to throw a second spray can onto their outside fire pit. Unaware of the danger, he was delighted with his first big boom and ready to create another.
There is no one who knows your loved one as well as you do, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t catch everything the first time around. Securing your home is an ongoing process.
Joan Jackson is a partner with Peter Carrillo in Practical Dreamer (588-1835), providing clinical health education and other services, including caregiver support groups sponsored by the Area 12 Agency on Aging.
© 2009, Friends and Neighbors Magazine