As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the cognitive changes your loved one experiences can cause greater risks to their safety at home. Additionally, the physical, behavioral and sensory symptoms of their condition may put them in dangerous situations. If your loved one still resides at home, either alone or with family, it’s important to recognize the effects of Alzheimer’s on your loved one’s safety and take precautions to keep them out of harm’s way.
According to Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay in Venice, FL, safety becomes a paramount concern as loved ones enter the middle and late stages of dementia. “Memory loss leaves older adults extremely vulnerable,” says Clanton, “and it’s so much more than just forgetfulness. Wandering, suspicion, loss of sensory information and confusion increase loved ones’ risks of getting hurt. Caregivers and family members play an important role in making their home a safe place for their loved one to live.”
How Alzheimer’s Limits a Loved One’s Safety
As Clanton noted, Alzheimer’s disease affects much more than just memory. Depending on the stage of their disease, your loved one’s judgement may be compromised, they may be dealing with troubling psychological issues or their physical abilities, such as balance or depth perception, may weaken. To keep your loved one safe, you first need to understand all of their symptoms (both current and potential) and look at their home through the eyes of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia causes changes that affect an individual’s safety through:
- Judgement – Forgetting how to use household appliances; putting harmful substances in their mouth; dressing inappropriately for the weather
- Sense of time and place – Getting lost on their own street; not recognizing familiar areas within the house; going out late at night
- Behavior – Becoming easily confused, aggressive, fearful or suspicious
- Physical abilities – Having trouble with balance; slipping, tripping or falling; dropping or breaking sharp objects
- Senses – Experiencing loss of vision or hearing; insensitive to temperature; lack of sense of smell
Adapting the Home for Alzheimer’s
As you consider ways to make your loved one’s home safe, begin by assessing the house through their perspective. Is it easy to get to each room? Are hazardous objects out of sight and reach? Go through each room and make changes to decrease any dangerous situations. The Mayo Clinic’s article, “Home Safety Tips: Preparing for Alzheimer’s Caregiving,” provides helpful room-by-room suggestions for making the house safe for someone with dementia.
The most common safety measures experts agree on include:
- Remove tripping hazards – Electrical cords, rugs, poorly placed furniture
- Make sure security devices are in working order – Your loved one may not be able to smell something burning. Check their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.
- Remove weapons from the house – Even if your loved one is just tidying up, an accident could occur when handling a weapon.
- Keep areas well lit – Vision changes could make it hard for your loved one to move around. Good lighting can help avoid trips and falls.
- Place medications in a locked drawer – Your loved one may forget that they took their medication and accidentally take too many doses or take pills from the wrong bottle.
- Be prepared for emergencies – Keep important phone numbers and addresses next to the phone in large, easy-to-read print.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom – Placing bars near the toilet or in the shower can help your loved one stay independent and avoid a fall.
While it’s vital to keep your loved one safe from potential hazards within the home, don’t neglect the dangers outside as well. Six in every ten people with Alzheimer’s disease are prone to wandering, which can take them out of the house and out of your care. To prevent your loved one from wandering and potentially becoming lost or injured, take special steps to keep your loved one safe, such as:
- Making sure their basic needs are met (food and drink, access to the bathroom, etc.)
- Maintaining a routine so they aren’t easily bored
- Installing locks on the doors out of their main line of sight
- Keeping car keys out of sight
You can learn more about wandering and keeping your loved one safe here.
Security for Mind and Body
“All caregivers will agree that keeping their loved one with Alzheimer’s safe is top priority,” says Clanton, “but their safety shouldn’t necessarily come at the cost of sacrificing their lifestyle. While you make adjustments to your loved one’s home and routines, keep in mind that you’re supporting their needs, not limiting their freedom. Try not to make an environment that’s restrictive. Rather, create a place that allows for safe independence and dignity.
“If your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses to the point where they can no longer live safely at home, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay offers respectful memory care for those living with dementia. Our community provides an elegant way of life supported by the care and assistance loved ones need to live well as their disease progresses.
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered The Art of Living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion, and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.