There is no doubt that Alzheimer’s is a serious disease, affecting nearly 5.3 million Americans today.[1. “2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” https://www.alz.org/facts/] Not only does this condition take a toll on the patient themselves, but it can have a severe impact on their families, friends, and anyone providing care for them. If you’re looking after someone with Alzheimer’s, one of your biggest concerns is likely how to keep them safe at home. Read on for advice on how to do so effectively.
Protecting Your Loved One from Everyday Dangers
You probably already know that Alzheimer’s severely impacts memory. This means that, over time, your loved one will forget where items are, what they are for, and how to use them safely. Such things make it very easy to become confused—even in ones’ own home. Alzheimer’s patients who suffer from these symptoms can easily get lost, trip and fall, or accidentally destroy valuable items. They can also become extremely anxious or agitated and may even try to harm themselves.
It’s important to remember that your loved one with Alzheimer’s is an adult who deserves dignity and respect. However, it can’t be denied that making a home safe for them involves many measures that are similar to “child-proofing.” Try the following:
- Lock it up: Childproof locks are often a “must” in an Alzheimer’s home and should be placed wherever dangerous items are stored. These items include cleaning chemicals and sharp objects like knives. Keep these things out of sight. It may not be enough to store them in high or out-of-reach places, as it may only encourage your loved one to make dangerous attempts to get at them.
- Let there be light: Good lighting is important to have in every older adult’s home since eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. However, for someone with Alzheimer’s it’s even more crucial. Darkness or dimness can be frightening for them, in addition to making it difficult to find their way around.
- Keep things the same: If your loved one has had furniture and objects in the same places for years, avoid moving them around. With Alzheimer’s, long-term memory tends to outlast short-term memory, so your loved one may be able to recall where things are located even if they can’t recall what you just told them.
- Hide valuable objects: If you have important documents, mementoes, and other valuable things around the house, consider storing or hiding them. Someone with Alzheimer’s may not be able to see their worth and could accidentally rip up an Advance Directive or break a precious heirloom.
- De-clutter: Not only do stacks of clothing, newspapers, or other clutter give an Alzheimer’s patient one more thing to trip over, but they can actually increase stress as well.[2. “Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies, March 14, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8-reasons-8-remedies] This may not happen in an overt way, such as crying, but can be more subtle, like exhibiting general signs of discomfort and anxiety.
- Hire a professional: There may come a time (or perhaps there already has) when caring for your loved one alone may be too much. They may be in harm’s way because you can’t always be there to watch over them or are distracted by your numerous responsibilities. In cases like these, it’s important to consider hiring a home health aide.
Someone with Alzheimer’s Will Eventually Need a Re-evaluation of Their Care
Just as with other health conditions, a home for someone with Alzheimer’s needs to be outfitted for their particular needs and abilities. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, which means that your loved one’s needs will change over time. This indicates periodic evaluation of home safety measures. To this end, don’t hesitate to employ professionals, including a geriatric care manager. When it comes to your loved one’s well-being, it’s best to leave no stone unturned.
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 care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.