Poorly-lit stairs, electrical wires, rugs, and other household errors might be common situations that homeowners encounter. Usually a solution is found—the hazard is removed—and people continue moving about their day. But for those who struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the home can be a very dangerous place.
Confusion, disorientation, memory loss, and wandering can combine to turn ordinary home situations into life-threatening hazards for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
What is Alzheimer’s? Is it the Same as Dementia?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes progressive damage to brain cells and leads to the memory and function impairing ailment we know as dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, more than five million Americans live with it, and one in every three seniors die from it.
Even those with access to the best treatment resources aren’t immune to Alzheimer’s affects. Proper caregiving is not only costly, but emotionally, physically, and mentally draining for all involved. In 2016 treatment will cost $236 billion alone.
Dementia may start small—forgetting to take a medication, or what year it is—but it escalates quickly. If you spot any unusual behavior in yourself, a friend, or family member, acknowledge it immediately. Early treatment can hinder symptoms and prolong how early severe impairment appears.
Symptoms that affect safety:
- Memory loss
- Limited mobility and coordination
- Problems with senses
- Poor sense of time or place
- Unable to recognize familiar places or areas of the home
The Best Approach for Home Care
It’s important for those suffering with dementia or alzheimer’s to be able to maintain as much of their independence and routine as possible. This helps them avoid feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and isolation.
Modern home automation is a valuable tool to help people with alzheimer’s retain their freedom, but it’s also important to take a holistic approach the care of a person with Alzheimer’s.
Encourage social interaction, a healthy diet, exercise and movement, and activities that can keep their brain engaged.
You don’t want their bedroom or home to feel too restrictive, so make sure enough hazard-free space is available for activities and independence.
How Home Automation Helps
Home automation, smartphones and other useful tech improvements have made the care process for those with Alzheimer’s much easier. These new tools also allow for a lot of freedom to be retained.
Intercoms for Communication
Loved ones can alert you if there’s any need in the middle of the night that needs to be addressed. Whether that be medication, water, or they need assistance with a bedpan if they can’t make it to the bathroom.
With various smartphone apps and home automation systems you can set reminders about places they need to go and at what times, meals, when to take medication, and other scheduling notes that people with Alzheimer’s may forget.
Calendar clocks, touch lamps and smartphones provide them with user-friendly devices that are intuitive and include vital information simply.People with Alzheimer’s may forget night or day, so clocks will help them know the time, and smartphones will show images of contacts next to phone numbers so they’ll know who to call. People with Alzheimer’s are more likely to remember faces than numbers.Telephone blocking tools can prevent telemarketers and solicitors from calling and stressing them out.
Electrical use monitoring tools are for loved ones who didn’t live with patients so they can be told if appliances have been turned on or off. Video cameras and sensors will help you track movements, whereabouts, and whether or not a loved one is sticking to their routine.
Home Safety Devices
Fall sensors and life alert tools are vital for emergency situations. These tools save lives. Our falling guide for older adults is a great resource for this issue.
Automation and Sensors
Home automation tools can set the home to specific schedules. This will turn lights, appliances, and other items on and off so you don’t have to worry about them being forgotten.
Sensors and door chimes let you know if someone entered or left the house (wandering is one of the biggest issues for those with Alzheimer’s.)
Those with alzheimer’s may fear the dark, a well lit bedroom and night light will be vital.
Properly lighting and sensored bulbs will help them maneuver around the home at night.
Make sure to install smoke detectors on every floor and in every bathroom. Also have an emergency plan in case of a fire.
REMINDER: Some technological advancements may be pervasive, and it’s important to have consent before using products. Speak with your loved ones to make sure they are okay with your approach, and let them know that you’re trying to help them maintain their freedom.
General Safety Guidelines
Set water heater to 120° to reduce risk of scalding injuries.
Safety-Proof the Bathroom
Nonskid mat or strips in shower or bath standing area. Have a carpenter install grab bars in the bath or shower and near toilet. Install elevated toilet seats if necessary.
A shower chair or bath seat that allows a person to be seated while bathing. Also include handrails near shower, toilet, and bath.
Clean up Clutter
Tape down rugs and remove clutter and electrical equipment from the floor
Remove guns or other dangerous equipment. Make sure car keys and items that may be used hazardously are put away.
List Emergency Phone Numbers
Place emergency phone numbers near the telephone.
Make Sure Loved Ones Have Identification
Always carry identification that includes name/address/and an emergency contact number. Bracelet is ideal.
Avoid Clutter Outside of the Home
Get rid of poisonous things outside of the home (plants, tools, etc)
Communicate with Neighbors
Alert neighbors that wandering happens. Have a list of places a person may wander (past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.)
Label Things and Provide Instructions
Label things. Hide car keys. Place instructions for frequently used items somewhere. Have a working fire extinguisher
Stop signs will help. Even late stage patients recognize off limit signs.
Don’t Startle Them
Loved ones may confuse family members or caregiver as intruders. Make sure you communicate with them so they aren’t scared.
What Future Technology May Do
Future technology may be able to screen for diseases and detect any Alzheimer issue early. According to Healio a lot of progress could be made in the near future.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks everyone equally, regardless of their access to resources and prevention tools.
There’s many outlets in place to help contribute to the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Center
- More Comprehensive Research List via Alzheimer’s.Net