Making Home Safe For Dementia Patients
Dementia is a heart wrenching sickness that takes a toll on millions of seniors, In fact, there are over 5 million people who suffer from age-related dementia in the United States alone. There is no known cure for dementia, so when your loved one becomes crippled by the effects of dementia, you may feel as if you are on a constant uphill battle to care for your patient for a loved one.
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Every case of dementia is a little different, but when caring for a senior with dementia, it doesn’t hurt to do more, as opposed to doing less. Seniors with dementia may begin to feel uncomfortable in their own home as once familiar routines become irretrievable memories. Your job as a caretaker or loved one is to make them as comfortable as possible in their home while making the home a safe place.
“Baby-proofing” the house may seem like overkill, but it is important to do as much as possible, especially for those with more severe cases of dementia. Ideally, seniors living with dementia have someone else living with them to help the seniors get around.
The first step you should take to making the home safe for dementia patients is to meticulously assess the home. Assess the home for hazards like how you would for an infant and then some. Here are some important things to look out for as well as some important questions to ask when assessing the home.
Steps and Stairways
Take a look at all steps and/or stairways in the home and outside the home. The first question you need to ask when dementia-proofing the home is, how mobile is the dementia patient? If the answer is immobile, then consider moving all essentials downstairs. If necessary, convert the living room into a bedroom. Safety is the most important thing when it comes to making the home safe for dementia patients, so if you think the home is unsafe for the dementia patient, just avoid them entirely.
If the dementia patient is mobile then make sure that either side of the stairway is equipped with handrails. Handrails ensure that the dementia patient is supported when going up and down the stairs. If there are no handrails by the stairs, they can easily be bought and installed.
If the stairs are not too steep, consider the possibility of replacing the stairs with a ramp. Some dementia patients may find it easier to use a ramp instead of stairs, but ask them how comfortable they feel with the stairs before installing any ramp.
When assessing the bedroom, the most important thing to assess is the amount of clutter in the room. Are there any unnecessary pieces of furniture that can become a tripping hazard for the dementia patient? If so, move any useless furniture or hazards to storage.
As for the lighting in the bedroom, make sure the lighting is sufficient. If not, install new lights in the room. In addition, buy a couple night lights to plug into the outlets of the room. Many night lights come with timers on them, so they will only be on at night. That way, the dementia patient doesn’t have to worry about forgetting to turn on or off the switch.
The bed is the star of the bedroom, but it can also be one of the biggest hazards. Beds that are high from the ground pose as falling hazards for seniors and dementia patients as it can require some energy to get in and out of bed. For those who struggle with mobility, consider getting the senior a step stool to help them get in and out of bed. Products such as the step2bed are perfect for those who struggle with mobility — or any senior, dementia patient or not — as these products make it significantly safer for an individual to get in and out of bed at night. Step stools reduce the risk of falls and provide necessary added support to the senior.
Floors and Other Surfaces
All homes have floors, and every floor is different. Some floors are particularly more slippery than others, so it is important to consider the floors when making the home safe for dementia patients. Walk around the dementia patient’s home, once with socks, once barefoot, and once with shoes. In each trial, see how slippery the floor is — carefully try to slide around.
If you realize that the flooring in a certain area of the house is particularly slippery, consider coating it in an anti-slip adhesive. Anti Slip adhesives add a thin coating to slippery surfaces such as tile and help reduce the risk of falls.
Any rugs in the home pose a falling hazard. To mitigate this, purchase rug grippers. Rug grippers cling to the corners of any rug and help secure the rug to the floor. In addition, rug grippers keep rugs from bunching up.
Doors and Windows
When assessing the home in order to make it safe for dementia patients, look out for the doors and windows as they are often forgotten in amateur home evaluation. Make sure the windows and doors can be easily opened or closed. The mechanism for closing windows should be quick and easy. If applicable, make sure the screen windows are secured to the windows. Add screen windows to second stories in the home for added safety.
The locks on the door should be easy to operate and the process should be intuitive. The doors should have ample space to accommodate a wheelchair, even if the dementia patient is not using one at this time.
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous rooms for dementia patients. The stove and oven can be death risks if the dementia patient forgets to turn them off. The IGuardStove is a considerable investment, but will shut off the stove if the dementia patient forgets. Ideally, the dementia patient is not living alone, but if they are, any automatic stove shut off device is essential.
The kitchen should be arranged in a way that is safe and convenient for the dementia patient. Label the cabinets with what is in each respective cabinet so the dementia patient can identify where things are. Commonly used items or spices should go on lower shelves.
Dementia is an awful sickness that has taken the lives of many. By making modifications to a dementia patient’s home, you are helping them live as normal of a life as possible. If you are struggling emotionally while taking care of a dementia patient, consider visiting local support groups or online forums. Many individuals are in the same heartbreaking position you are in, and you are not alone.