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Keeping Persons with Dementia Safe In & Around the Home

Did you know?

Older people are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Potentially dangerous drops in body temperature, known as hypothermia, may occur in response to not being kept warm enough. People with Alzheimer's may not realize how cold they are and may not take appropriate steps to stay warm. Hypothermia can happen even when the temperature is not below freezing, so the temperature in the home your loved one with dementia should be set around 70 degrees.

Safety around the home becomes an issue for people with dementia. Taking preventive steps is important to avoid falls and other accidents as well as to prevent your loved one from wandering off.

Dementia caregivers in a 2007 focus group identified the following as major home safety concerns:

Moving About the Home

As their coordination decreases, it is important that your loved one be able to move about the house safely. Make sure that rooms and hallways

  • Have non-slip walking surfaces
  • Have sufficient lighting; consider nightlights if your loved one walks around at night
  • Are not obstructed by furniture, cords, or clutter

For stairs, consider installing handrails as well as safety strips on the steps.

Preventing Accidents

It is important that dangerous items or complicated appliances be placed out of the reach of loved ones who might confuse their use or purpose.

  • Consider automatic shut-off devices for appliances such as ovens and toasters or storing them when they are not in use
  • Items such as weapons, household cleaners and chemicals, or matches should be placed in locked cabinets.

Locks and Preventing Wandering

Locks are an easy way to prevent your loved one from opening windows or doors and wandering.

  • Outside windows and doors should have locks installed in out of sight places near the top or bottom of the door frame.
  • Locks should be removed from bathroom doors or other rooms in the house where loved ones could inadvertantly trap themselves inside.
  • Child-proofing devices or locks on cabinets may be needed to safeguard cleaning supplies, medications, and other potentially harmful items or substances.

Weapons and Firearms

One memory clinic survey found that a firearm was present in 60.4% of homes where an individual with dementia was living (Spangenberg et al., 1999). Safety tips for homes with firearms include:

  • Make sure the firearm is unloaded and locked away when not in use
  • Keep the ammunition stored in a different location than the firearm itself
  • Talk to your local police or sheriff’s office if you wish to get rid of the weapon or to learn more about firearm safety

Preparing Alternative Caregivers

If someone else will be staying with your loved one while you are absent, be sure that this person is aware of his or her needs and abilities. If possible, have this person visit beforehand when you can be present to assure that the visitor is comfortable around your loved one and that your loved one is comfortable with him or her.

View References

Lach HW, Chang YP. Caregiver Perspectives on Safety in Home and Dementia Care. Nursing Research. 2007; 29(8): 993-1014. Retrieved March 30, 2009.

Spangenberg KB, Wagner MT, Hendrix S, Bachman DL. Firearm presence in households of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999 Oct;47(10):1183-6. Retrieved March 31, 2009.

Resources

Home Safety for People with Alzheimer's Disease

Source: National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Description: This brochure for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's Disease discusses room-by-room home safety issues and steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of danger for loved ones.

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Safety in the Home

Source: Alzheimer's Society (United Kingdom)
Description: This web page discusses important issues regarding safety in the home including lighting, falls, dangerous substances, heating, getting help from neighbors, and others.

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Caregiving:Adult Transportation

Source: The Cleveland Clinic via Revolution Health
Description: This web page lists warning signs which suggest that it is time to assess how safe it is for your loved one to continue driving. It also provides caregiver advice and transportation options.

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Maintaining a Safe, Alzheimer-Friendly Environment

Source: DementiaAware
Description: This web page provides a brief discussion of the importance of safety for person's with Alzheimer's disease. A checklist asks you a number of questions regarding the safety of your home and modifications that may be required to accommodate the needs of someone with Alzheimer's disease, such as storing area rugs, lowering the hot water temperature in your house, and adding locks to the doors.

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Keeping Your Home Safe: Checklists

Source: Safe Aging
Description: This web page offers different checklists for different rooms in your house, with questions about safety issues regarding each room.

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Worksheet for Making the Home Safer for a Person with Memory Loss

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs
Description: This handout provides a comprehensive checklist for household safety in various rooms. The resource list at the end also lists some common safety items you may wish to install, along with their average prices, so that you can plan for what you might need.

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Safety at Home: Adapting the Home to Support the Person with Dementia

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This brochure examines household safety concerns for individuals with dementia and provides suggestions and safety checklists for specific rooms such as the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

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Staying Safe: Steps to take for a person with Alzheimer’s

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This 16-page color booklet describes common safety issues in the home that arise when caring for a person with dementia and provides suggestions on how to prevent these problems from happening.

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Dementia – Safety Issues

Source: Better Health Channel (Australia - Victoria)
Description: This web page provides an overview of safety issues both inside and outside the household for individuals looking after a loved one with dementia.

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