Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, which slowly and progressively reduces the patient’s ability to care for her or himself. More and more dependent on caregivers, the patient will not only experience memory loss but also the inability to make sound judgments. What she or he would have previously recognized as a dangerous situations, no longer holds the same value judgment, and very often Alzheimer’s patients have grievous and even life threatening, accidents.
Caregivers are able to avoid many such accidents by observing a number of safety rules and suggestions. The top seven safety issues to consider when dealing with a loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are as follows:
- Please remember that Alzheimer’s patients oftentimes get disoriented. They tend to wander off, oftentimes with a specific location in mind, yet somewhere along the way they either get lost or forget the location for which they are headed. Adding to this the suspicions that sometimes take hold of the patient’s mind, they rarely stop to ask for help. For this reason it is best that you, as the caregiver, are able to monitor the comings and goings of your loved one. For example, this may mean having to relocate deadbolts and door locks out of reach toward the top of the doors. There are also doorknob covers available that will prevent a round doorknob to be turned by someone who does not know how to work the contraption. If your loved one lives on a busy street, this may very well save her or his life.
- Confine hazardous liquids, such as cleaners, paints, or garden chemicals, in one or two locations and keep these cabinets locked. An Alzheimer’s patient may not remember that certain substances are poisonous and may mistakenly ingest some. Again, there are some great products out there for childproofing such areas, and perhaps it may not be a bad idea to do so.
- Avoid accidental poisonings by helping your loved one to take her or his medications. Overmedicating is often a cause for accidental poisonings since the patient will not be able to remember whether or not she or he has already taken the daily dose of the pills prescribed. For the remainder of the time, keep the medications out of reach for your loved one.
- While you want to give your loved one as much as space as possible, you still want to make sure he or she is safe even in your absence. Yet forgotten toaster ovens, irons, or coffee makers may present severe burn hazards. There are automatic shut off devices available for these appliances, and it may be worthwhile to invest in some of them.
- Another important aspect of safety for Alzheimer’s patients is the prevention of falls. Very often this may be accomplished by adding lighting to stairwells, and overall areas of the home that previously were a bit dark. Obviously, you don’t want the light to be glaring, yet some well placed additional lights that help your loved one to safely navigate stairs or the entry way are appropriate. Similarly, you may wish to install some nightlights in the outlets throughout the home to add some light even at night so your loved one will be able to easily find the light switches.
- Probably the most hazardous room in your loved one’s home is the bathroom. There are many areas that may provide dangerous surface that could cause slippage. For this reason, go ahead and install grab bars in the shower or around the bathtub to allow your loved one to have added safety when entering and exiting. Additionally, put non-slip mats on the bottom of the show or tub, and consider installing a special shower chair in the shower, so your loved one may sit down. Be sure to turn down the water heater temperature so scalding hot water will not accidentally burn the patient.
- Last but not least, make sure that you remove guns from the home, since the patient may no longer be able to use them safely. Additionally, if your loved one smokes, be certain to monitor this activity closely, since forgotten cigarettes are dangerous fire hazards.
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