Crucial Caregiver Advice: How to Keep Your Senior with Alzheimer’s Safe

A person in a wheelchair.
One of the most challenging parts of looking after someone with Alzheimer’s is trying to keep them safe. Sadly, it is often the victim of the disease who poses the biggest threat to their well-being. The behaviors of those with Alzheimer’s (especially in the latter stages) can often be impulsive, uncontrolled, unpredictable, and downright dangerous.
However, if you’re a caregiver, you still want your loved one (or patient, if you look after the elderly as a professional) to enjoy every aspect of life that they can. The following tips may help make it easier to keep your Alzheimer’s senior safe on a daily basis.

Perform a home assessment

One of the first things to do as a caregiver for Alzheimer’s patients is to perform a home assessment. Sometimes, it’s the small things that may pose the greatest risk. As such, the Alzheimer’s Association, The Mayo Clinic, and the National Institute on Aging have made the following recommendations:

  • See that the senior’s house has working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
  • Make sure any locks are out of the senior’s reach or remove them in places the seniors could lock themselves in (like a bathroom).
  • Install childproof locks on cabinets in kitchens, bathrooms, and anywhere else dangerous items (such as sharps, chemicals, medications, or alcohol) are kept.
  • Use appliances with an auto shut-off.
  • Remove knobs from stove burners or install safety knobs or latches.
  • Keep dangerous items such as firearms and power tools locked up, and preferably out of the house.
  • Dispose of plants and flowers that are toxic when eaten, or artificial bowls of fruit that Alzheimer’s seniors may mistake for the real thing.
  • Have a spare key hidden outside the home in case you’re accidentally locked out by the senior.

Take daily steps towards protection

If you’ve cleared the senior’s home of general hazards, that is definitely a big step in safeguarding their well-being. However, continued vigilance is still needed in order to avoid daily pitfalls that Alzheimer’s patients face. Consider taking the following additional precautions:

  • See that you don’t serve the senior food or beverages that are too hot. Remember – you have to let it cool before you give it to them, as they may no longer realize steam or similar indicators mean a dish is too hot.
  • In order to avoid accidentally scalding your senior in the shower (or having them scald themselves) you might want to lower the temperature setting on your hot water heater.
  • If they are prone to wandering, have supervision available at all times.

Do activities with your senior — safely

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, appropriate activities for your loved one should focus on the “person, place, and approach.” For example, remember what they used to enjoy before their Alzheimer’s diagnosis – but with their more limited abilities in mind. If you notice them enjoying simpler pastimes, feel free to help them engage in those safely. In addition:

  • Encourage activities that suit their present condition. Physical activities, such as walking or stretching, are especially good for Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Focus on having fun; not achieving a goal. If the senior is enjoying themselves and not at risk for harm, don’t correct them if their form is wrong.
  • Be supportive and encouraging, no matter what the activity.
  • Keep instructions clear and simple.
  • Practice patience; you will likely have to repeat the same steps or instructions to the senior over and over.
  • Be realistic about what they can accomplish in the amount of time given.
  • Relax and have a little fun yourself!
  • Minimize distractions and interruptions

As a caregiver, you can prevent harm to Alzheimer’s patients

Being a caregiver is no easy task, especially when that loved one or patient has Alzheimer’s. It’s a challenging disease – even under the best of circumstances. However, with a little patience and planning, you can increase the likelihood your senior will live life to its fullest (and safest), no matter what lies ahead.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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