Keeping the Home Safe for Those Living With Dementia
Those living with Dementia often become less able to manage around the house as their condition progresses. For example, they may forget to turn off the oven or the water, how to use the phone during an emergency, which things around the house are dangerous, and where things are in their own home.
Prevention is key. It is more effective to change the person’s surroundings — for example, to remove dangerous items — than to try to change behaviors. Changing the home environment can give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely.
The National Institute on Aging provides these tips on creating a Dementia-safe home.
Simplify the Home
Get rid of clutter, too much furniture, exposed cords, and small throw rugs – anything that could lead to falls and injuries. Installing non-skid strips on floors can help. Shoes and slippers with good traction also help the person move around safely.
Minimize Danger by Addressing the Five Senses
Those living with Dementia may no longer accurately interpret what they see. Any objects – curtains or bedspreads, for example – that have busy patterns can cause confusion. Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so people can see the steps as they go up or downstairs. Limit the size and number of mirrors, as they also can cause confusion.
People with Dementia may experience loss of touch or sensation, or may no longer be able to relate to feelings of heat, cold, or discomfort. Lower hot water heaters to 120 degrees to prevent burns. Put signs near the oven, toaster, iron, and other things that get hot. The sign could say, "Stop!" or "Don't Touch — Very Hot!" A person with Dementia should not use appliances without supervision.
A loss of or decrease in smell is common in people with Dementia. Check smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly, since those with Dementia may not be able to smell smoke. Also, check on refrigerated foods to make sure they have not spoiled.
People with Dementia may not taste as well as before. They also may place dangerous or inappropriate things in their mouths. Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, perfume, or laundry detergent pods. They may look and smell like food to a person with Dementia. Keep the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) by the phone.
Those living with Dementia may also lose their ability to interpret what they hear – even if they have normal hearing. This may result in confusion or over-stimulation. Don't play the TV or music too loudly, and don't play them at the same time. Loud music or too many different sounds may be too much for the person with Dementia to handle.
Click here for more on home safety and those living with some form of Dementia.
Source: National Institute on Aging
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