Home Safety Tips When Caring for a Relative with Alzheimer’s Disease
Caring for a patient or relative with Alzheimer’s disease is far from being the easiest job in the world. This is especially true if you consider the fact that Alzheimer’s isn’t just a typical disease wherein the afflicted person is required to just stay in bed and rest. When one is sick with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, not only does his physical condition deteriorate but so do his mental and psychological states. If you’re the caregiver or adult relative caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s, it can be tough caring for the patient in question as doing so needs constant monitoring of the person.
In the United States alone, there are as many as 16 million people who are caring for a relative with dementia, and these people know full well how difficult, emotional, and intensely stressful the caregiving experience is. At present, there is known cure for dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your patient or relative’s life easier, more comfortable, and safer. The following points are a collection of tips you can follow to ensure home safety for your patient or relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Safety Tips by Household Area
Take note that it’s not necessary to apply all the tips below, especially if certain tips don’t really apply to your household. When choosing which particular tips to apply or not, it’s crucial that you evaluate the specific condition and needs of the patient as their behavior and abilities can change over time.
General Home Area
- Print a list of emergency numbers as well as your home address and put it next to all the telephones in your house. Use an answering machine to answer phone calls when you’re away from home; set it up to turn on after the fewest number of rings as possible. People with Alzheimer’s disease are often unable to take telephone messages because of their condition or become susceptible to telephone exploitation by scammers. Make sure to turn your ringers on low so as not to confuse or distract the patient. Put all cell phones away in a safe, cool place where they can be stored so they won’t easily get lost.
- Set up carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms in or near the sleeping areas and the kitchen. Make sure that they are still functioning and replace their batteries regularly.
- Don’t use flammable and volatile chemicals near gas appliances. Also, be sure that you don’t store these materials in an area where you’ve installed a gas pilot light.
- Install locks on all your doors and windows and make sure they’re all secure and functioning. It’s also advisable that you set up alarms that can notify you instantly whenever a door or window is opened.
- As much as possible, avoid having to use extension cords by placing appliances and electrical lamps close to their outlets. If you have no other option but to use an extension cord, make sure you keep them closely attached to a room’s baseboards so as to prevent anyone from tripping on them. Use child-proof plugs to cover electrical outlets that are unused.
- At the top and bottom of each stairway in your house, set up light switches so the people going up and down the stairs can clearly see their way. Also, consider installing a carpet or safety grip strips down the stairs. Setting up an extended handrail is also a good idea as it can give additional support.
- Store all medications, whether they’re over-the-counter or prescription, in a securely locked cabinet. Clearly label each prescription bottle medicine with the name of the person they’re intended for, the drug’s name, dosage, expiration date, and drug strength. This way, the person taking them does not accidentally overdose on them.
- Likewise, keep all kinds of alcohol available in the household in a locket cabinet, where it will be out of reach of the person affected with Alzheimer’s. Alcohol can affect a person’s mental state and can cause confusion on the part of the patient.
- If the person smokes too, you will need to remove all his smoking paraphernalia such as cigarettes, lighters, matches, and the like from the household. Aside from the fact that they’re bad for anyone’s health, they can also be fire hazards.
- Keep the house clean and free from clutter as such objects can cause harm and cause people to trip. Remove unnecessary furniture from areas where people frequently pass. Likewise, pick up plastic bags as these can cause a person to suffocate.
- Firearms are another thing you should look out for, in case you do keep such things in the house. The best option is to completely remove such things from the house, but if you can’t, make sure you store them in a place that is locked and not easy to access by just anyone. Also, install safety locks on all your ammunition.
- Lock away dangerous kitchen items such as sharp knives, scissors, matches, cleaning chemicals, small appliances, blades, and the like. Keep them in storage cabinets and drawers that can be locked. You can also choose to have childproof door latches installed on these cabinets and drawers.
- Throw any artificial food objects such fruit- or vegetable-shaped refrigerator magnets that might look like they’re edible. People with Alzheimer’s might get confused and mistake such objects as actual food.
- Make small renovations to your kitchen that can make them safer to be in and to use for your relative who has Alzheimer’s. One way is to install safety knobs as well as an automatic off-on switch for the stove. You can also keep a night light in the kitchen.
- Think ahead as to why any person with Alzheimer’s diseases might get out of bed in the middle of the night: whether they’re going to the bathroom, feeling hungry or thirsty, or feeling restless or in pain. Then anticipate such needs by putting a sufficient amount of food and fluids near their bedside as well as scheduling their toilet breaks so they don’t feel the need to get out of bed.
- Place mats right next to the beds, just to take precaution against the possibility of them falling out of bed. However, make sure such mats are firmly set in their place and won’t easily slide away, causing another accident. You can consider using a hospital-type bed complete with rails or wheels, consider that you do research first about using such beds.
- Be very careful when using such objects as electric blankets, pads, and sheets, all of which can cause skin burns as well as be fire hazards. Limit their usage and keep them locked away when they are not in use.
- When a person with Alzheimer’s goes to the bathroom, make sure that another person is with him, whether that is yourself or another member of your family. This is crucial especially if the person is also severely physically impaired.
- If it can’t be avoided that the person will have to go to the bathroom by himself, do some preventive measures first against certain accidents. For instance, you can remove the bathroom door lock in order to keep the person from being accidentally locked inside. You can also set up adhesive mats in the bathroom, especially in slippery areas like the bathtub and the showers. This way, he won’t accidentally fall down and harm himself, without anyone knowing the worst.
- Make small renovations inside the bathroom that can make life a lot easier for your relative. For instance, you can install bars inside the bathtub or shower area that he can grab onto for additional support. You can also set the water heater at a permanent setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit so as to make sure the water is always at a comfortably warm level. You can also set up drain traps in drains or sinks to ensure that small items that get accidentally thrown away can still be recovered.
All these home safety tips can prove helpful when you apply them while keeping in mind the needs of your relative. With that said, when taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s crucial that you invest in a GPS tracking device like Tracki that can help you easily track his whereabouts and monitor his behavior. A tracker can even help you identify whether the user has fallen down or if he has ventured outside a certain safe zone. It even has an SOS button that the user can push in case he gets into an accident or is in a potentially dangerous situation.
As the disease advances, it will get more difficult for your loved one and it will become more taxing on you as the main caregiver. And as the years pass, you will encounter many challenges that will frustrate you, such as fatigue, exhaustion, feelings of loneliness and isolation, financial problems, work issues, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. However, if you persist and learn to be patient, you will also encounter many rewards. First, your bond with your loved one will deepen through time, and you will gain a better understanding of his feelings. You will also enhance your ability to feel compassion and acceptance in general.