You can’t predict nor prevent every danger or hazard in the environment of someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia. They may catch the flu or slip on a wet driveway. But many accidents can be prevented with a little forethought and Hazard Control.
Some things you must remember when dealing with memory loss and Alzheimer’s
- Your patient may not remember that he can no longer cook his own meals
- The person with dementia may not remember that she/he can not adjust the hot water
- The person with dementia may not remember that aluminum foil never goes inside the micro-wave
- The person with dementia may not remember that they have already taken their medication on this day
I think you get the idea. Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia may not remember what is dangerous and what is not. And a loud warning from the caregiver when they do something wrong, can make the person with Alzheimer’s highly agitated in fear and trepidation. They are confused, and as their caregiver– it becomes our responsibility to keep them safe from their environment and volatile situations.
Constant warnings to them do no good as they don’t remember your warning longer than a few seconds.
A home with a calm, neat, tidy and consistent atmosphere is the safest. Try to stay as close as possible to the same routine, to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Keep your home as stress-free as possible. Stress often causes the person with Alzheimer’s to become agitated and angry. Then the entire home is agitated and struggling to recover balance.
If the person with dementia becomes angry about something, it’s much better to calm them without arguing. The best line of action is to change the subject if possible, or distract the person from whatever may be upsetting to them.
I know this sounds impossible to do–certainly, no home can be clean, and calm and peaceful all the time. Yet, the more clutter-free you can make your home, the safer your home will be. A neat home removes the fear of someone tripping and falling and makes other “possible” hazards more easily noticeable. Nerves aren’t frayed because something can’t be found. General fatigue and confusion tend to grow in a frustrated and cluttered home. Anything that reduces confusion or tension or stress is a plus!
A head-start in this direction is to follow some simple safety rules.
In The Home
Remove or store things away in a safe place that may cause problems if the person with Alzheimer’s tries to use them–
Iron, Knives, Hair Dryer, Sewing Machine, Power Tools, Curling Iron, Car Keys, medications, household cleaning agents
Try to think of everything that could be a hazard before it becomes a hazard.
It’s a good idea to lower the temperature on your hot water heater, for example; since some people with memory-loss no longer understand how to adjust hot water and may get a serious burn from turning a faucet to the “hot” position.
Some other items that may pose a hazard and need special attention
Stairs, (someone confused could get turned-around and fall down the stairs), Large areas of glass, such as a wall. Furniture with sharp corners or edges. Chairs that tip over easily. Balconies with a short banister. Hot radiators or room heaters in the winter. Open windows on a second floor or higher.
Much the same as creating a safe environment for a child, the outdoor areas should have grill-work on glass doors, bannisters on tall porches, decals on sliding glass-patio doors, locked gates on swimming pool areas
Check for uneven ground, holes in pavement or grassy areas that may cause a fall or turn an ankle
Never leave an outdoor grill unattended while the coals are still hot
Make certain lawn furniture is safe and stable, not easily tipped over
As with small children store out of sight, pesticides, gasoline, paint, thinners or items such as these.
Since a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to learn, it is of little value to warn them of all the dangers in your home. Life will be easier and less worrisome for everyone once the hazards and dangers have been checked and corrected. With a neat and tidy home, any new hazards or dangers that arise will come to your attention right away.
And as you emphasize the benefits of a safe and hazard-free home, others in your family may grow to appreciate your efforts and assist in keeping other areas trouble and hazard free as well.
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