Home safety tips for Alzheimer's caregivers

Home safety is important for everyone, but this is especially true if you're caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease in your home. A throw rug or a stray toy on the steps could easily cause a fall or injury.

To prevent stressful and dangerous situations, consider these home safety tips for caregivers. Periodically, it might be helpful to request a physical therapy referral for a home safety evaluation.

Evaluating home safety

Start by thinking about your loved one's behavior, abilities and health. Can your loved one safely use stairs? Does he or she wander or get up at night? Has he or she fallen before?

Then check each room for potential hazards and make a note of changes you'd like to make. Keep in mind that changing the environment will likely be more effective than trying to change your loved one's behavior. Changes in abilities need to be reevaluated periodically as the disease advances.

Bathroom safety tips

In the bathroom:

1. Install a shower chair and grab bars. Place grab bars near the toilet, near the bathtub and in the shower. A hand-held shower head also might be useful.
2. Address slippery surfaces. Place nonskid strips or a mat in the bathtub and shower. Unless the bathroom is carpeted, place nonskid strips on the floor near the bathtub, shower, toilet and sink, too.
3. Use a faucet cover in the bathtub. A foam rubber faucet cover can help prevent serious injury if your loved one falls in the bathtub.
4. Lock up potentially hazardous products or electrical appliances. Install childproof latches on cabinets and drawers to limit access to potentially dangerous items. Use child-restraint caps on medication containers.
5. Reduce water temperature. Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 F (48.9 C).
6. Remove door locks. Consider removing locks from the bathroom doors to prevent your loved one from accidentally locking himself or herself in.

Kitchen safety tips

In the kitchen:

1. Prevent access to potentially dangerous appliances. Install safety knobs on the stove to prevent your loved one from turning the stove on or off. Disconnect the garbage disposal.
2. Remove artificial fruits or vegetables or food-shaped magnets. These objects might appear to be edible.
3. Lock up breakable or potentially dangerous supplies. Install childproof latches on cabinets and drawers to limit access to items such as cleaning products, alcohol, matches, knives, scissors and even plastic bags.

Bedroom safety tips

In the bedroom:

1. Install a monitoring device. A baby monitor will help you hear if your loved one needs help. This might be particularly helpful if your loved one has advanced dementia.
2. Take caution when using heating devices. Don't use portable space heaters in your loved one's bedroom. If your loved one uses an electric blanket or heating pad, keep the controls out of his or her reach.

If your loved one tends to get up at night to drink, eat or use the bathroom, try to meet these needs before he or she goes to bed.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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