Senior Care Blog Wayland and Weston

Keeping Dementia Patients Safe

By Denise Roskamp

Although a family caregiver needs to take some precautions to make their senior loved one's home safer, safety precautions take on added meaning when the senior has dementia. This is because a dementia patient may do things that compromise their safety that a senior without dementia would never do. Some of the problems that seniors with dementia can have that compromise their safety are:

  • Behavioral Changes: People with dementia can become fearful, confused, or agitated, which may pose a danger to themselves or to elderly care providers if dangerous objects are readily available.
  • Judgement: Dementia causes a person to make errors in judgement, and some of them can be as serious as misusing an appliance so that it causes injury.
  • Physical Abilities: A senior with dementia may have problems with balance and vision, which increases their risk for falls.

Making changes to the senior’s environment can reduce stress on family caregivers and elderly care providers because there will be less chance of the senior injuring themselves. At the same time, you’ll want to find a balance between making the home safe for the person with dementia, but not uninviting and overly inconvenient for everyone else.

Kitchen Safety
The kitchen is full of items that could pose a threat for dementia patients. Altering the stove with a circuit breaker or hidden gas valve can prevent the person from turning it on. Keep all small appliances, like toasters, away from the sink. Place all sharp knives out of sight. Don’t leave spices, sugar, flour, etc. in canisters on the counter. Decorative items that resemble food, such as wax fruit, should be put away.

Laundry Room Safety
Place all detergents, softeners, and bleaches in locked cabinets to prevent ingestion or spills that may get into the senior’s eyes. If you use detergent pods, it’s especially important to keep them out of reach since dementia patients have chewed on or eaten the pods and died. It may even be a good idea to switch from the pods to another form of detergent.

Garage, Basement, and Yard Safety
It’s not uncommon for dementia patients to forget they aren’t able to do something anymore, like driving the riding lawnmower. Or, they may forget how to use a tool that can be dangerous when misused. For that reason, all tools, lawnmowers, and weed trimmers should be kept in a secure location. Also, place all chemicals in a locked storage room, shed, or cabinet.

Bathroom Safety
You may wish to remove the lock from the bathroom door to prevent the senior from locking themselves in where elderly care providers cannot help them if they are hurt. Also, put away razors and products that could be dangerous if swallowed or misused. Place child proof locks on cabinet drawers.

In addition to the safety precautions listed above, walk through the senior’s entire home and look for potential tripping hazards, like extension cords or uneven surfaces. Make sure hallways are well
lighted to prevent falls, especially hallways that lead to frequently used bathrooms. Your parent’s elderly care provider can assist with making safety changes in the home or alerting you to potential safety hazards as the senior’s needs change.