Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be frustrating, time-consuming work. Specifically, Alzheimer’s safety for your loved one needs to be a priority because the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can sometimes lead to unsafe situations. We asked Meadow Deason, OTD, OTR/L, CEES, for tips on keeping your loved ones secure, including the topics of driving and home safety.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this disease affects safety in various ways, specifically due to the body and brain adjustments.
These changes can include some (or all) of the items below:
- Judgment, including forgetfulness
- Sense of place – getting lost on the way home
- Behavior – being suspicious or fearful
- Body difficulty – losing balance
- Sensing ability – noticeable sensitivity in hearing, seeing or temperature
Discourage Driving for Alzheimer’s Safety
Driving is often not safe, and often illegal, for someone with this disease. With this in mind, ask a doctor whether it’s safe for your loved one to drive. For example, in the state of Nevada, doctors are required to report individuals with cognitive or medical impairment to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If safety is in question, use these tips to prevent him (or her) from getting behind the wheel:
- Limit access to the car. Keep the keys with you or lock them away.
- Ask an authority figure, such as an insurance agent or a doctor, to tell them not to drive.
- Ask your doctor about contacting the DMV.
Watch for Wandering
Alzheimer’s safety is especially important because those with this disease tend to wander and get lost. Try the following tips to reduce the risk of wandering:
- Get your loved one an ID bracelet and have them wear it at all times. You can also enroll your loved one in “Wandering Support”
- Install door chimes, so you know when exterior doors are open.
- Ask neighbors to call you if they see your loved one out alone.
- Go with your loved one when they insist on leaving the house. Don’t argue or yell. Instead, use distraction or gentle hints to get them to return home.
Adult-Proof Your Living Space
Basically, a simple living space is a safe living space. This means reducing clutter and removing any safety issues. You may also want to get advice from an occupational therapist (home safety expert). Keep in mind that some changes may not be needed right away. Focus on major safety concerns first.
Try the following tips:
- Add lighting (or glow-in-the-dark tape) to brighten dark areas, including stairways and halls.
- Use color contrast or texture indicators for dials, knobs, and appliance controls.
- Remind your loved one not to carry items while walking to avoid a fall.
- Remove sharp objects from drawers and countertops.
- Avoid using small throw rugs or doormats, as they are easy to trip on, causing falls.
- Move often used items, so they are easy to reach.
- Lock away alcohol and tobacco products, as they are not recommended for dementia patients.
- Install handrails in the shower, tub and near the toilet. Bathroom falls are common.
- Adjust the setting on your hot water heater, so water does not scald. Those with Alzheimer’s can lose their sensitivity to temperature.
- Move and lock up hazardous chemicals and cleaning supplies, such as bleach and insecticides.
- Disable and remove guns or any weapons.
- Supervise any medication taken.
Alzheimer’s Safety: Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Emphasize the strengths of your loved one, promoting participation in meaningful activities and improving their health and well-being. Here are some ways to keep them physically and mentally active:
- Maintain regular vision and hearing screenings and make necessary adaptations.
- Establish a routine for daily activities.
- Encourage participation in self-care and leisure activities.
- Work with your doctor to establish a healthy diet.
- Ensure proper hydration. It may help to set reminders for your loved one to drink fluids.
- Encourage regular exercise. Exercise delivers oxygen to the brain, improving brain health.
- Promote good sleep habits. Good quality sleep can increase overall brain health and has been associated with improving memory, attention, and concentration.
Remember, with creative problem-solving, you can support your loved one while they live at home.
Movement & Memory Disorders | 775-982-2970
The Movement & Memory Disorders Program evaluates, diagnoses, and treats all movement disorders including multiple sclerosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, tremor, dystonia (involuntary contraction of muscles), restless leg syndrome (RLS), chorea or Huntington’s disease (uncontrolled movements caused by muscle contractions) and myoclonus (muscle twitch). Treatments include both surgical and medical procedures and are geared toward symptomatic relief and improved quality of life.