Dementia can affect areas of the brain which normally work to keep us safe; areas that provide us with reasoning and judgment and keep us from being impulsive.
Because of these brain changes, we must protect our loved ones through changes in our home environment. To determine what needs to be changed, you can ask yourself, “Could they get hurt in this situation if they do not have good reasoning skills?” or “Can our home be damaged if this occurs?”
If safety is a concern, it is best to take steps now to ensure the safety of you and your loved one.
There are some simple things you can do such as putting certain items out of sight to help prevent an unwanted behavior since many persons with dementia (PWD) may use an item if they see it. For example, car keys hanging next to a door may prompt a PWD to drive. It is best to place the keys out of sight or remove the car from the premises entirely if it should not be driven.
Some additional safety measures you may want to consider include:
- Keeping medication bottles out of sight and putting only what is needed on a countertop;
- Using stove knob covers so that a burner cannot be turned on without your knowledge;
- Removing workshop and yard items such as chain saws and lawn mowers if the PWD is no longer able to operate them safely;
- Ensuring good lighting throughout the home and securing handrails in stairwells;
- Placing grab bars in tubs and showers to prevent falls;
- Removing lighters and matches from easy access and having them available when you are together (if the PWD smokes);
- Secure any guns with locks or a gun safe, or remove them from the home entirely to avoid access and accidents.
It is important to reassess a person’s ability on an on-going basis to make safety decisions as dementia progresses.
Learn more about creating an Alzheimer’s Safe home on the National Institute on Aging’s website.