Think About Making Safety A Priority Before It Becomes A Problem

Safety is a very big issue when caring for a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that will rob someone of many of their abilities. Judgment is compromised, time or place may not be recognized, behaviors are irrational at times, physical abilities are affected, senses and skills will decline. The best way to deal with the situation is to be proactive enough that it does not become an emergency.

There are some things that we should do without a question. Have a recent picture at hand, have a bracelet or pendant identifying their condition, have your contact information on your loved one, perhaps on a laminated card, install locks on the tops and bottoms of doors (out of eye sight), and keep the keys out of sight. You can install alarms on doors. Lock away chemicals, sharp objects such as knives, and firearms. Firearms should remain unloaded. Keep emergency numbers by the phone. Any 24-hour hot lines or help lines in your area should be included.

There are many safety issues that we as caregivers may not take into consideration when caring for our loved one at home. Until they begin to wander, we may not recognize it as a potential problem. Six out of 10 people who wander will get lost. If they are not found within 24 hours, there is a higher chance that death will be the outcome. I strongly recommend a great product called a Scent Evidence Kit that can help in locating a missing person. It is inexpensive and simple to use. It is a double-walled jar that will hold the pure scent of the person up to five years or more. Having this kit will allow a special unit of bloodhounds to track your loved one. (The Scent Kit is a great idea for children as well.) There are all kinds of GPS tracking devices and phone apps that can help locate a missing person, but some are expensive and may not be in your budget.

The Alzheimer’s Family Organization has a wanderers ID program that will provide members with a pendant or bracelet for free with a membership. There is a companion card that you can provide information to anyone interacting with your loved one – such as waitresses, tellers, clerks — that explains they have a memory issue.

Don’t overlook details in the home, such as throw rugs, electrical cords and outlets, space heaters, changes in elevation of the floor, and other fall risks. Keep smoke detectors in working condition. Have grab bars installed in bathrooms. Use shower seats and use a hand-held shower head. Floor rugs in the bathroom should have rubber backing so they will not slip. Set the water heater at 100 degrees to avoid scalding.

Have night lights wherever they may be needed. Gas stoves may have to have covers for the knobs. Chemicals should be removed or locked away. People with dementia cannot identify what things are used for, so there is a danger they will drink or use chemicals in the wrong way. There is a new product line of chemicals that are safe if ingested.

Driving is one of the most difficult and emotional issues to deal with. Most care givers wait far too long to confront this issue. Start to transition your loved one to the passenger’s seat, have friends pick your loved one up instead of meeting them, and do not leave the keys in sight. You may have to remove the car from eye sight; park it at a friend’s house. We have to be mindful of the changes that are happening to the person living with dementia such as: vision issue, slower response time, hearing issues, possibility of getting lost, judgment is compromised. They are in Brain failure, and driving is the last thing they should be allowed to do.

These are just a few of the issues that should be addressed when caring for a loved one at home. Most families want to have their loved ones remain in their home as long as possible, and the more proactive you are in heading off potential safety problems, the better your chance of keeping your loved one longer at home.

And don’t forget about caregiver care and safety. There is a higher chance of falls and injuries and other health issues if you become too exhausted to do your job. Bring in a third party for support as soon as possible, and make sure that he or she is briefed on the many issues involving safety.

We as caregivers cannot fix everything, but getting educated and being proactive we provide our loved ones with a better and safer quality of life.

Until next time remember: “We all deserve the best”

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© Debbie Selsavage, 2016