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Creating a Safe Environment for Your Loved One with Dementia

As dementia progresses, safety becomes a concern. Memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s alter a person’s abilities, causing changes in the brain and behavior that can affect safety.

Dementia affects cognitive skills and behaviors, which may make a person’s living environment unsafe. Depending on the stage of the disease, dementia can affect one’s judgment, sense of time and place, behaviors, physical ability and senses.

For example, people with dementia may forget how to complete simple tasks or how to safely use household appliances. Loss of sense of time and place is also common in those living with dementia. Getting lost in familiar settings, such as one’s own neighborhood, and no longer recognizing areas in the home can become very dangerous. Confusion, fear, paranoia also play a part in whether or not an individual is safe at home. Loss of physical ability — such as balance — or changes in vision, hearing or sensitivity to temperature are all factors in one’s safety.

Living at home as long as possible is important for people living with dementia, but they must be in a safe environment. There comes a time, however when living at home may no longer be safe for your loved one. It is important that caregivers maintain an open dialogue with their loved one’s doctors about living arrangements.

Here are some home safety tips to help you create a safe environment for your loved one with dementia.

  • Assess the environment. Carefully look through your loved one’s home through the eyes of a person with dementia. Are there objects that could cause injury? Are certain areas of the home unsafe? How easy is it to get outside or to other dangerous areas such as the basement or garage?
  • Remove fall/tripping hazards. Floors should be kept clutter free. Remove potential tripping hazards such as floor lamps, rugs, coffee tables and magazine racks. Install handrails in bathrooms and along staircases and steps, the most common places for falls. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about the use of a cane or walker for more stability.
  • Install locks out of sight. Placing deadbolts high on exterior doors can make it more difficult for your loved one to wander outside. Remove locks on interior doors such as bathroom and bedroom doors to keep them from getting locked inside.
  • Ensure safety devices are working properly. Test smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in working order.
  • Light walkways. Be sure hallways and walkways are well-lit. This includes entries, doorways, stairways and bathrooms. Nightlights or extra lights in these areas can help prevent accidents and even reduce disorientation.
  • Remove or disable all weapons. Guns or other weapons should not be kept in the home of someone living with dementia. These can pose a serious risk not only to the individual, but also to caregivers, as the individual with dementia may confuse a caregiver or family member for an intruder.
  • Set water temperature to prevent burns. Dementia can cause a person to lose his or her sense of temperature, which can become dangerous when dealing with hot water. Set the temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees or less to prevent burns.
  • Lock medications. Use a locked pillbox or drawer to store medications. Keep a list of daily medications, and check off as each one is taken to ensure proper dosage.

There comes a time when living independently or even living at home with other family members may no longer be a safe option for your loved one with dementia. The Cottages provide state-of-the-art certified assisted living residences for people living with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders. Under the care of our highly qualified, 24-hour staff, you can ensure your loved one will be safe in a warm and compassionate environment.