There was a recent report of a 92 year old gentleman with dementia who failed to return home after his walk and was later found dead in a cold parking lot. Deepedly saddened by such news, this week's blog is dedicated to addressing safety issues for individuals with dementia.
Remaining safe can be challenging in all stages of dementia, especially as the disease progresses. Difficulty in walking, periods of confusion, changes in vision and hearing, and the inability to keep track of time and places, can result in harmful consequences. What can you do to help your loved one remain living at home safely? Below are some helpful tips and resources to help guide you:
- Be sure the home is well lit, including using night lights in the bathroom and bedroom.
- Remove scatter rugs and other tripping hazards.
- Remove the locks from the insides of bathrooms and bedrooms to prevent accidental locking.
- Post emergency phone numbers in an easily seen place.
- Lock up household cleaners.
- Be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check periodically that the alarms work. Batteries should be changed when daylight saving time occurs.
- Rather than keeping loose bottles of medication around, consider using an automated pill dispenser, which is locked.
- Keep a list of the medications and dosages posted on the refrigerator for first responders. Be sure to list any allergies.
- Set water heater temperature to 120 degrees to prevent accidental burning
- returning home late from a drive or walk
- appearing to be restless
- difficulty finding familiar rooms in the house
- verbalizing that he/she wants to "return home" even if they are already at home
- Invest in a medical identification bracelet or necklace.
- Consider using monitor devices to keep track of the whereabouts of your loved one. You can read about the details of such devices and other safety programs offered through the Alzheimer's Association at: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-gps-comfortzone.asp
Following through on these tips will go a long way in a creating a safe environment, while giving you a peace of mind. Family members and other caregivers need to be alert to the changing needs of the person with dementia, and to report such changes to the treating physician. Most of all, remember to treat your cherish one with the respect and care that he/she deserves!