Elderly and Dementia safety

If you have a senior parent, you have likely worried about their independence and ability to stay at home safely on their own. Once a doctor confirms dementia, the concern multiplies swiftly. How will your parent manage alone? What changes have already taken place in their cognitive ability? What can you expect?

Start by getting all the information possible from their family doctor or healthcare team. It will be important to find out how your mom or dad may already be affected, and what their doctor advises for next steps. Discuss your plans and ask for their recommendations. After you arm yourself with some information, you can plan what to do and how best to proceed.

Goals when dementia proofing a senior’s home:

– Create a safe, familiar environment
– Keep the senior in their home as long as possible
– Avoid accidents and reduce chance of injury
– Remove triggers that may cause stress or agitation
– Prevent disorientation or chance of wandering
– Consider caregiver comfort as well as the senior with dementia
– Ensure safety accommodations can evolve with the senior’s needs

How to create a safe place for seniors with dementia:

1. Tour the home and make a plan for each room or area of the home

A thoughtful tour of the home is necessary to decide which rooms and space in the home offer the safest choices for a senior to spend time. Consider which rooms will be most easily updated and how best to limit access to the rest. Make a list of items to remove and any general changes or accommodations needed. A home may need , special door handle covers, secure latches or alarms on all doors and windows, and handrails or grab bars installed throughout accessible areas. Consider adding labels to doors, cupboards, and drawers to help encourage confidence and independence. These labels can be written at first, but can later evolve to pictures to help remind your mom or dad where things are kept.

2. Create space for your senior parent’s caregiver

Plan how you’ll create space for a caregiver to spend time as needed, with privacy and restricted access to ensure personal items are kept safely out of reach of your senior parent. A caregiver spending significant time with someone with dementia needs their own space to retreat to, and time to do so. An experienced caregiver will be accustomed to keeping their personal items out of reach and monitoring a home for safety, but personal space is important.

3. Create safe areas in which the senior can spend time

Each room should be cleared of clutter, fragile items, and safety hazards. Simple, comfortable spaces with a few familiar items should be the goal. Remove all unnecessary items and only add/keep what is appropriate to your parent’s abilities. Ensure rooms are secure, and the light is bright without shadows or dark spots that can distress those struggling with dementia. Once each room has been carefully set up, the paths that connect the rooms should also be walked carefully to ensure lighting is adequate, and the path clear and safe.  

4. Identify areas that require extra caution or limits

Consider riskier areas carefully and explore ways that spaces can be made safer. Remove breakable items, reduce water temperature, and remove all hazards like sharp objects, small electrical devices, medications, and chemicals. It may be best to have a caregiver assist with personal care and bathroom visits, while offering simple care items like a hairbrush in the bedroom.

5. Block access to danger zones or areas that offer too much risk

Depending on the cognitive and physical ability of your mom or dad, the garage, basement, attic, and storage areas likely all fall into this category. Eventually the kitchen may follow as dementia progresses. Doors and windows are likely also in this category, requiring door knob covers, locks, safety latches, or even alarms.

6. Ensure clear communication between family, healthcare teams, and caregiver(s)

While keeping a family member with dementia in their home as long as possible is the goal, it is also important to keep in touch with their caregiver(s) to ensure communication is shared and appropriate decisions are being made. An original plan may be revised several times as conditions change; this is the norm, not the exception.

Seniors with dementia can continue to live in their homes, It is likely that care will be needed to ensure medical appointments are kept, and any medications administered, monitored and documented. They will also to need help with food preparation and personal care. With this support, your mom or dad may be able to stay in their own home for some time, allowing them the comfort of familiar surroundings as long as possible. It’s a good idea to explore home care options early and ask about services, levels of care, and communication standards.

It’s unrealistic to assume that you can watch your aging parents at all times but, with proper planning and a little help from trained professionals. Finding ways to support your aging parent in staying at home can help them experience a better quality of life while they are still able to enjoy the familiarities of home. We offer an in-home consultation, home safety assessments and can help make further recommendations to keep your senior parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia be safe at home

Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.

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~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team