Safety tips for Alzheimer's care

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming. For the family member afflicted with Alzheimer’s, even routine daily events such as hearing or seeing evening newscasts can be truly terrifying. As a result, one of the greatest challenges for the caregiver is creating an environment for the loved one, which is as safe and nurturing as possible.

With toddlers, the term is “childproofing.” For those with Alzheimer’s disease, there is no similar term, but the concept is the same. Many things around the home that pose no danger to people in full possession of their mental faculties can be major hazards for people with Alzheimer’s. And even though it is impossible to make any home absolutely safe for a person with the disease, there are many steps you can take to reduce the risk of your loved one getting into things he/she shouldn’t, or reduce the risk of injury.

Here are some tips to make your home safe and comfortable:

Limit distractions and control noise. Play radios softly, and turn the telephone ringer on low. Consider removing telephones and televisions out of the individual’s room. If your loved one watches TV, choose humorous or happy sitcoms, game shows and musical shows. These types of shows can make the individual laugh and/or stimulate positive memories.

Maintain consistency and organization. Don’t rearrange rooms. Instead, maintain consistency by keeping furniture in the same place. Keep the individual’s bedroom and living areas well organized and keep pathways clear. Remember, sparse is better than cluttered. The less there is to trip over or break, the better. In addition, clutter may confuse or upset people with Alzheimer’s disease. Move decorative knickknacks out of harm’s way, secure them, or eliminate them.

Encourage recreational activities. Encourage activities that are success-oriented and make the individual feel productive. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s enjoy outdoor activities. Encourage walking if your home has a safe, enclosed yard. Gardening is also a good activity. But, make sure that the yard is free of toxic plants and that your loved one uses safe gardening tools (nothing sharp). When the individual is unsupervised, you should avoid activities that involve sharp or hot objects, such as knitting or cooking.

Lock up hazardous materials. Keep all medicines, cleaning products and sharp utensils up or out of reach. Consider wiring the stove, thermostat and hot water heater with hidden switches or controls. Lower the temperature on your water heater to avoid scalding, as accidental scaldings are common among people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Everyone needs a little TLC. With all the responsibilities and problems involved in caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, it is easy to forget how important a loving touch can be. A pat on the back, back rubs, foot massages, hugging or holding hands are calming, and they communicate love and safety in a way everyone can understand. Several studies show that massage exerts a calming influence and minimizes behavior problems in Alzheimer’s care.

No one is able to predict the rate at which deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s disease will occur.  The disease may progress to a certain point and then stay at that level for years.  In fact, most people with Alzheimer’s remain in the community throughout their life.  If your relative must face the fact that, as the disease progresses, he or she may not be able to live alone, home care may become not just a heroic task, but an impossible one. 

For the vast majority of Alzheimer’s caregivers, there comes a time when they can no longer care for the affected individual.  They simply do not have the skill, energy and support to provide round-the-clock supervision and daily activities tailored to the person’s increasing needs and remaining abilities.  That’s the time to make the decision to move your loved one into a specialized care facility. 

Lisa Anthony

I am the Marketing Director of Arden Courts Memory Care Community in Westlake

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 9:29 AM, 02.18.2014