Although the Alzheimer’s Association currently reports over 5 million people nationwide who are living with the condition not everyone experiencing symptoms report them. This means the number of people living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia is most likely higher than documented. There are many different types of Dementia with 60 -80% having a type of Alzheimer’s. Memory loss is a major symptom. Loss of other mental abilities is also part of the condition and negatively impacts everyday living. Physical changes in the brain are the main indicator. As Dementia affects memory and other mental abilities everyday routines may become unsafe to the person living with the disease. It is important to recognize these dangers and make safe adjustments. Household appliances may be hazardous when one forgets how to use them. The inability to tell time and know where one is makes getting lost in familiar surroundings more of a possibility. Those with Dementia tend to have trouble with balance and become fall risks. Confusion and fear affect behavior as memory decreases. Being aware of some of the common issues helps in providing safer surroundings.
- Loss of Balance – Adjustments need to be made in the home to accommodate the loss of balance experienced with Dementia. Although falls are sometimes a part of the aging process they are more common with Dementia. Identifying hazards leading to falls and correcting them is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a lack of handrails on stairways and cluttered hallways as high-risk areas. Loose rugs are notorious for increasing the chances of a trip or fall. Removing these dangers eliminates some of the fall risks. Install textured grips on bathtub and shower floors to prevent slips and position handrails in strategic areas to aid in balance.
- Temperature Insensitivity – Insensitivity to temperatures is another aspect of Dementia. Bathing or washing dishes becomes problematic if the water is too hot. Identifying the water taps with the use of bright red and blue to indicate hot and cold may be helpful. If possible turn down the water heater temperature gauge. Use a thermometer to keep water at a safe temperature.
- Dangerous Substances – As memory loss increases those with Dementia become more vulnerable in situations once harmless but now dangerous. Many unsuspecting plants are toxic. It is not unusual for a person with Dementia to attempt eating a plant or decorative fruit. Unsecured medicines become risky. Forgetfulness may lead to overdosing. Store medication and over the counter items in a locked cabinet. Keep cleaning fluids in a safe place to avoid accidental ingestion.
- Firearms – According to a publication released by the Alzheimer’s Association disabling and locking up guns may not be enough to prevent a person with Dementia from hurting themselves or another person. Dementia often causes people to become suspicious of others and go to great lengths to protect themselves. If there are weapons in the home it is best to decide early in the process how they will be stored to prevent possible injury.
- Wandering -Wandering is a serious concern for those with Dementia. Being lost and wondering how to get home is frightening. Not knowing where your loved one is and not being able to find them is traumatic. Always make sure the person with Dementia is supervised especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Installing deadbolts on exterior doors or using an alarm system provides security. Adult daycare is also another choice to provide activities for your loved one in a safe environment.