An older woman washes vegetable in a stainless steel kitchen sink. Photo by CDC on Unsplash.

When caring for an individual who has Alzheimer’s, there are many precautionary measures that may be implemented to ensure their personal safety. If you currently live with a loved one who struggles from dementia, it’s crucial that you take proactive steps to minimize their risk of injury or other complications. Home safety is one of the most effective ways to do this, as certain residential situations can become hazardous if they aren’t designed with memory care in mind. In this article, we’ll review the essential steps anyone can take to design and structure their home in a way that protects individuals with dementia and related conditions from dangerous situations and injuries. 

The Heritage provides assisted living and respite care for senior citizens and their families in Hammonton and throughout New Jersey. If you are currently living with a family member who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, please reach out to us for support, informational resources, or further details on the professional caregiving services we can provide. 

How Safe Is Your Home?

First and foremost, you should assess your home to determine its current state of safety and whether it is ideally laid out to accommodate your loved one’s needs. Complete your home safety evaluation by checking every room, noting the design of the area as well as the items and furniture that may pose a potential risk, such as loose wires, slippery surfaces, sharp objects and electrical appliances. 

Once you’ve reviewed all areas of your home and taken note of potential hazards, consider your loved one’s state of health, their physical abilities, and their day-to-day behavior. For instance, can they use the stairs without assistance? Do their symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to worsen at a certain time of day or night? Do they have a history of wandering or leaving the house without notice? Have they experienced falls or fractures in the past? All of these can be helpful in determining next steps for home safety.

Safety Tips For The Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most common injury sites for senior citizens, so it’s almost always necessary to update it with safety features. From the tile floors to the porcelain fixtures, the number of slippery surfaces in a bathroom explains why falls so often occur in this room of the home. To help keep your loved one safe from injury, there are a few changes you should make. In the shower, install grab bars and a chair to provide extra support and stability. Whether you have a shower, bathtub, or both, place a protective cover over the faucets; typically these are made of rubber, which provides better shock absorption in the event of a fall. On the floor, place non-slip mats in areas such as those by the tub, sink, and toilet. Adjust the water temperature to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure that the water pressure is not so high as to cause physical discomfort for your loved one. Lastly, consider removing door locks if you think that they may lock themselves inside the room by mistake.

Safety Tips For The Kitchen

Although the kitchen tends to be a site of nostalgic and happy family memories, it can also be an extremely hazardous environment for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most kitchen appliances use electricity or contain sharp tools, so be sure to place these objects in a cabinet that is either out of their reach or locked. Disconnect the garbage disposal when not in use, and equip the dials of your range with safety knobs to prevent burns and fires. Inedible objects that resemble food, such as marbles, magnets, or small plastic utensils, may accidentally be ingested by a person with dementia. Keep these in a safe place, such as a locked container on top of the refrigerator. 

Safety Tips For The Living Room

The living room is usually one of the simplest areas of the home to optimize for senior safety. Maintain the cleanliness of the room, don’t allow clutter to accumulate, and organize wires so that they are out of the way of foot traffic. Glass doors, windows, and glass objects should be marked with a brightly colored sticker or identification label. This makes them easier to see and reduces the likelihood of an accidental collision or shattering. 

Safety Tips For The Laundry Room 

Many chemicals are found in the laundry room, from bleach to detergent to fabric softener. Keep these products locked in a storage cabinet to protect your loved one from spilling or ingesting hazardous substances. Some individuals with dementia have a tendency to adjust appliances and manipulate knobs, so if you notice these symptoms, install mechanisms on your washer and dryer to prevent these behaviors. 

Safety Tips For The Garage & Other Rooms

The other rooms of your home may require varying degrees of modification, but it is almost always a good idea to lock vehicles, to move sharp objects out of accessible range, and to store power tools and dangerous equipment in a locked container or garden shed. 

Additional Safety Recommendations 

This article is by no means exhaustive and your loved one may have specific memory care needs that aren’t addressed by its contents. Whether they are entering the early stages of dementia or are coping with advanced Alzheimer’s, it’s never too early to maximize the safety of your home for their protection. At some point, however, nearly all individuals with an age-related memory condition will need professional caregivers, so keep this in mind as you monitor their health and behavior. Know that reaching out for help is never a sign of weakness, but an indicator of strength and genuine care for the wellbeing of your loved one. 

At Heritage Assisted Living in Hammonton, we understand the struggles that accompany caring for a loved one with dementia, which is why we provide affordable and compassionate services for seniors and their families. To learn more about our memory care and assisted living options, please visit us online or contact our facility directly at 609-561-8977.