Alzheimer’s caregivers know all too well how difficult it can be to care for a loved one with the disease. One caregiver duty that becomes increasingly important as the disease progresses, is how to provide the utmost safety at home.
As the disease takes hold, our parents and senior loved ones can fall victim to various accidents like falls in the home, wandering and more. Read these top five home safety tips from the Mayo Clinic about how to help keep your loved one safe during this time.
5 Alzheimer’s Home Safety Tips
Use these five home safety tips from the Mayo Clinic:
1. Check each room in the home for potential hazards.
Taking a systematic approach by looking through every room for potential safety issues, is an important step in providing home safety for loved ones.
Here are some common issues to address, room by room:
The bathroom is the most common place in the house where falls occur. Tips to prevent falls include:
- Ensure child-resistant caps are on all medication containers
- Evaluate the bathroom for surfaces that may be slippery when wet (apply adhesive nonskid strips and rubber bath mats in those areas)
- Install grab bars in the bath/shower and near the toilet
- Place a foam rubber faucet cover over the bathtub faucet to prevent serious injuries from falling forward in the tub
- Use a handheld shower and a shower chair
In the bedroom, safety precautions will depend largely on the stage of Alzheimer’s and behavioral issues that your loved one is exhibiting. Here are some examples of safety precautions to consider in the bedroom:
- Avoid using electric blankets or heating pads in the bedroom
- Be sure to assist your loved one in going to the bathroom, getting a drink and getting a nighttime snack before bed
- Consider a bed alarm that will go off if your loved one gets up alone
- Keep a monitoring device (such as a baby monitor) in your loved one’s bedroom to enable you to hear when he or she needs help
Garage and/or shed
Although a person with Alzheimer’s should never be left alone, wandering throughout the home can happen when a caregiver is temporarily unavailable. Here are some safety tips for these areas of the house:
- Keep automobiles locked when in the garage or outside
- Keep the doors locked to the garage and shed, if possible
- Lock up potentially hazardous items such as antifreeze, gasoline, machines, sharp tools, etc.
- Remove any bikes, motorcycles or vehicles that are not being used
- Remove any weapons from the home
The kitchen provides an environment for many potential accidents, including burns, cuts and more. Here are some tips for safety proofing the kitchen:
- Disconnect the garbage disposal
- Install safety knobs on the stove
- Keep alcohol, sharp objects and plastic bags locked up
- Lock up dangerous chemicals or objects by installing childproof latches on all drawers
- Refrain from putting out artificial fruit or other objects shaped like food, such as magnets
Laundry room safety tips include:
- Close and latch the lids to the dryer and washer to prevent access
- Keep the door to the laundry room locked if possible
- Lock up potentially hazardous products such as cleaning products, detergents and other items
- If needed, remove the knobs to prevent tampering with laundry appliances
- Install childproof latches
Tips for safety in the living room include:
- Avoid clutter and keep areas where people walk free of tripping hazards
- Be cautious when burning wood in fireplaces or wood-burning stoves
- Keep decorative items to a minimum
- Get rid of any plants that could be poisonous if eaten
- Use window decals to mark glass doors and windows to prevent incidents
Here are some safety measures for the outdoor areas of the home:
- Adapt home entrances for wheelchair accessibility if needed
- Apply slip-proof edging to outside stairs and areas that become slippery when wet
- If there is a pool, cover it and install a gate with a lock
- Keep walkways clear of clutter
- Use bright colored tape to mark the edges of stairs
2. Employ fall prevention measures.
Falling is a common cause of injury in senior loved ones, particularly those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Here are some general fall prevention tips:
- Be sure to have handrails and have the handrails extend beyond the first and last steps
- Cover stairs that aren’t carpeted with nonskid strips to prevent slipping
- Install safety gates in front of stairs for those who have trouble with balance, or who have a high risk of falls
- Keep stairs clear of clutter, and install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs
- Use night lights in your loved one’s bedroom, on the way to the bathroom and inside the bathroom, to prevent accidental falls at night
3. Evaluate home safety needs.
Not everyone has the same safety needs, depending on the stage of the illness and the individual being considered. Consider your loved one’s abilities, behaviors and health needs and ask yourself the following questions:
- Can my loved one safely go down and up the stairs?
- Does he or she have a history of falls?
- Does he or she wander?
- What behaviors might make your loved one vulnerable to accidents or falls?
4. Prepare for emergencies.
Not all accidents and injuries can be avoided, even when taking the utmost care in safety proofing a home. Here are some tips on being prepared for emergencies:
- Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly
- Keep a first aid kit handy
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy (including numbers for doctors, poison control and more)
- Keep ipecac syrup on hand, in case poison control instructs on its use
- Take CPR classes, to learn what to do if a loved one accidentally chokes or needs immediate emergency care.
5. Take miscellaneous safety measures.
- Cover unused electrical outlets with childproof plugs
- If your loved one has access to a computer, monitor use to prevent them from falling prey to internet fraud
- Keep a spare key outside the house
- Make sure doors and windows are kept locked to prevent wandering
Home safety needs to be a top priority for caregivers. Remember that the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s are always changing, so home safety will need to be reevaluated and updated to continue providing a safe home to a loved one with the disease.
What other home safety tips would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.