Mom Has Dementia; How Do I Keep Her Safe?

Dementia Safety Precautions

“Mary” posted a question to an on-line caregiver-group that I want to share with all of you:

“How do I keep my parent, who’s suffering from dementia, safe while I’m at work?” – Mary

Here are some suggestions from the Alzheimer’s Association brochure, “Staying Safe”:

  • Be sure to have working fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the house.  Test them regularly.
  • If you are out of the home during the day, use appliances with an auto shut-off feature, such as coffee pots.
  • Install a hidden gas valve or circuit breaker on the stove so your loved one can’t turn it on.  You can also consider removing the knobs when you leave the house.
  • Store grills, lawn mowers, power tools, knives, firearms and cleaning products in a secure (that means locked) place.
  • Discard toxic plants and decorative fruit that may be mistaken for real food.
  • Store medications, vitamins, and other dietary supplements in a locked cupboard.  Remove sugar substitutes and seasonings from kitchen tables and counters.
  • Supervise the use of tobacco and alcohol.  Both may interact dangerously with your patient’s medications.

thumbs upDementia & Wandering

More than 60 percent of dementia patients will wander.  The danger is that they can become lost and die before they’re found.  The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the use of their MedicAlert-Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program.  There are other, similar programs available, which you can find on-line.

Even if your dementia patient is equipped with one of these tracking devices, prevention is still the best plan:

  • Short term memory loss can cause anxiety and confusion in a place that’s large or contains lots of people, such as the market, a theater, a restaurant, a shopping mall or sports venue.  That confusion can cause patients to wander off in search of something that will quiet their sense of panic.  The best strategy is to keep away from places that will induce this behavior.
  • Be on alert for wandering if your loved one wants to “go to work” or “go home,” if he or she is restless or has a hard time locating familiar place in the home such as the bedroom or bathroom.
  • Other ways to prevent wandering include placing deadbolt locks on exterior doors either high or low, and controlling access to the car keys.

One of the best things you can do when your patients are showing signs of anxiety which may lead to wandering is to give them plenty of assurance that you will not leave them alone.  Try distracting them by giving them repetitive tasks, like folding laundry or helping prepare dinner.

Keeping your dementia patient safe is really a matter of being aware of their reactions and anticipating problems before they actually occur.

Blessings, Joanne

*photo - freedigitalphotos.net

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About Joanne

Joanne Reynolds is an award-winning journalist & leading caregiving coach. Her latest book, Search for Light: Ten Crucial Lessons for Caregivers, was created as a result of her experience in caring for five family members, and grew out of her extensive research into issues in family caregiving. She has also created the Blueprint for Caregiving series covering a wide range of caregiving topics. Joanne teaches classes & leads caregiving workshops across the U.S. Her blog can be found at Blue Print for Caregiving.

Comments

  1. Joanne,
    Those were some really useful tips for family members. Another thing that may be helpful would be for a family member to hire someone to sit in with their loved one. Maybe they could enlist the help of an adult day care. The peace of mind that comes with having someone there providing direct supervision is extremely beneficial. This would be especially true in Mary’s case as she is likely losing a lot of productivity at work constantly worrying about her parent.

    • Totally agree Jeremy- Lots of folks lose sleep (and productivity) while worrying about their aging loved ones… Adult day care can be a great resource for assistance!

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