When you care for a person with dementia, there are many things to be concerned about, not least of which is their safety. Early in the condition, people with dementia begin to lose safety awareness. Their perception of what’s safe and what’s not in the world around them is altered by the changes to their brain. You may find that they wind up in situations that both surprise and scare you.
How can you help keep a loved one safe? A great place to start is to be proactive and create a comprehensive dementia safety plan that protects them, their home and their finances.
Personal Safety Tips
To assess personal safety of your loved one, consider the following:
Take steps to minimize or prevent falls. Falls are a top reason for hospitalizations in older adults. Remove tripping hazards such as throw mats, keep pathways free of clutter, and make sure the person never uses a chair to reach anything they need. Get an assessment done by an occupational therapist to determine if a mobility aid like a cane or walker is needed.
Many caregivers underestimate the likelihood that their family member will leave home, become disoriented and not be able to find their way back. Consider enrolling the person in a program such as the 24/7 Wandering Support by The Alzheimer’s Association in collaboration with MedicAlert.
The person with dementia will likely need your help to ensure they take their medications as prescribed. Talk to your pharmacist about the benefits of medication blister packaging. In the meantime, always discard old medications and keep pills in a locked case.
Dementia affects both vision and smell so it’s common for people with dementia to eat food that might be spoiled. Clean out the refridgerato on a regular basis and if you need to discard anything, do so discreetly. Investigate a community service like Meals on Wheels Association of America to ensure the person always has nutritious meals on hand.
In-Home Safety Tips
For in-home safety, stay alert to the danger of fires, floods, and chemicals.
Remove candles, chemicals, and old cleaners from the home. You may also want to install an automatic stove sensor.
Look into plugs for the sink and bathtub that are designed to prevent overflow.
Buy liquid or powered laundry detergent. Laundry detergent pods can look like candy to a person with dementia. These can be dangerous if ingested.
Financial Safety Tips
Sadly, people with dementia are frequently targeted by scammers and are very vulnerable to fraud.
Make sure someone has power of attorney so that your loved one’s bank accounts can be carefully monitored for sums of money that may go missing.
Set up an alert to notify you each time there’s a purchase with a credit card.
List your loved one’s phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.
Once you have created a dementia safety plan, you’ll need to share the plan with all family members and service providers who may be interacting with your loved one, especially in the home. Ask them to observe your loved one’s safety situation and note their ideas for improvement. Dementia is a relentlessly progressive disease. You will want to re-evaluate your plan every few months and make changes as necessary.
Are you burning the candle at both ends caring for a loved one with dementia? Takacs McGinnis can help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.