Some people with Alzheimer’s can live at home for a very long time, perhaps the rest of their lives. Others may need to be placed in assisted living, and caregivers will have to determine when that time is appropriate. It will differ for everyone.
However, taking certain precautions will help maintain a safe environment in the patient’s home.
Much of this will seem like child-proofing at the very least. It will be hard to consider and will certainly upset the patient. This is certainly dependent on what stage the person is at and how cognizant they are of their predicament.
It is important to monitor phone calls as patients suffering from any degree of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s can be an easy target for criminals. They purchase lists of potential victims that are almost always age specific (over 65) and often utilize land lines, knowing that only seniors still use landlines with any frequency.
Even answering seemingly innocuous questions allows someone to record a “yes” or confirmation of a name that can be part of a scam.
Setting a phone to only a couple of rings so that the patient most often is
limited to outgoing calls only or simply turning off the ringer and giving the patient a mobile phone that is only to be utilized by family is another way to eliminate potential trouble.
Lock up the ironing board, eliminate space heaters and curling irons and put a timing mechanism on the stove/oven. They really shouldn’t be cooking anything that takes more than 20 minutes so having the electrical cord of the stove go through a device that will turn off within a set amount of time can be important. Consider anything that might be a potential fire hazard.
Try to make fireplaces inoperable. Remove any matches, tools and firewood from the area and don’t use it even when you are there so that the habit is forgotten.
Emergency Number/Contact Information
Put a large placard near any phone that has the number for police and fire department and also the primary caregiver in addition to the home phone patient’s number and address so it is easily accessible.
Put covers over any electrical outlets that are not in use.
Remove locks from any bedroom and bathroom doors so the patient cannot lock themselves in. You may want to consider door levers that are easier to operate.
Patients are prone to paranoia and fear and might hurt someone they love or even injure themselves. Remove guns, knives or anything that can be used as a weapon.
Install a cover over the thermostat so the patient cannot accidentally turn off heat or set it too high. You can also purchase some new types of thermostats that require a password or that allow you to preset temperature parameters.
Install two handrails for any stairs that are still being used. If a specific stair should no longer be used a door or gate will be a necessity.
Patients can sometimes relate to color better than remembering objects. A brightly colored chair might designate where you would prefer the person to sit. Similar colored rugs may guide a patient to safe paths through a house.
Be sure smoke detectors are plentiful and operable, in addition to carbon monoxide detectors.
Be sure to have a spare key outside the house in case the patient accidentally locks you out or if you have to direct someone else into the home in an emergency.
A patient may accidentally smother themselves. Remove dry cleaning bags or any plastic bags if possible. Paper bags are a good option.
Eliminate or limit access to computers. They are no less dangerous than a phone for being subject to scammers.
Review all paperwork. Secure anything that could be used by criminals. You might be surprised by people that have lost their homes to people that gain access to a patient’s deeds and titles.
A laundry room is full of chemicals that can be dangerous.
Garage and Basement
Much like a laundry room a garage or basement can be stocked with things that can be dangerous. Keep the door to the garage locked at all times. Go a step further and hide car keys to avoid any temptation to get into the car or upset feelings when that desire is denied.
Many garages hold lawn equipment, including lawn mowers and weed eaters, which definitely should be kept off limits.
Garages sometimes have inviting work areas and lots of tools. They house sharp could-be weapons, such as shovels, axes, hoes, and rakes. Garages also store oil, paint, and other chemicals that could be deadly if ingested.
A final thing to think about are the pets in the home. Homes with pets must make adjustments to ensure safety for both the person and the pets. It is entirely possible that the person with dementia might eat cat or dog food, or mess with the litter box. For this reason, put these items in out-of-the-way places, such as the off-limits laundry room. You may have to install a doggy door to allow free access for dogs to their food or cats to the litter box.
Keep fish tanks out of reach. The combination of glass, water, electrical pumps, and potentially poisonous aquatic life could be harmful to a curious person with Alzheimer’s disease.