If one of your family or friends has dementia, it’s natural to have some concerns about their safety. Dementia can affect a person’s sense of time and place, as well as their judgement and physical ability. There are plenty of ways you can help them live safely in their own home however. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best safety tips which will give you peace of mind, while helping the person to maintain their independence.
Signs and labels
[break]To help the find their way around the home, label the door of each room with a clear sign or picture. Mark taps as hot or cold to prevent confusion and injury. If they struggle with stairs, it may help to mark the edge of each one with brightly coloured tape.
Safety in the kitchen
[break]Make sure the cooker is turned off at the mains if the person is no longer able to use it safely and is necessary keep other appliances such as kettles, toasters and microwaves unplugged. Take away any appliances they no longer need. Make sure there are no matches in the kitchen, and instead use a battery operated lighter if needed. Make sure that sharp knives and kitchen implements that could cause an injury are put away after use.
Out and about
[break]One of the biggest concerns people have when caring for someone with dementia, is that they will wander outside, become lost and unable to get home. Recent developments in technology have helped with this, as electronic GPS trackers can provide peace of mind for family and carers. These gadgets can provide you with the precise location of your loved one if they go wandering, and you can buy them at a relatively low cost from websites such as Amazon. You could also use a smartphone, as most will have a GPS system installed as standard.
It may be that front doors will need to remain locked, but in this instance a key safe outside is needed so care staff, family and friends can get in. Make sure your loved one wears some form of identification, either on a wristband or a necklace, or put a card in their bag or pocket with information on so someone can call you if they do get lost.
[break]Falls can be particularly serious for elderly people and the risk of them occurring increases with age. Living with dementia can also increase this risk, but there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure your loved one’s safety. Improve the lighting of the home and make sure there are no potential trip hazards, such as loose rugs or objects lying on the floor. Making sure they get daily exercise will help, as it improves their strength and balance, reducing the risk of a fall. This will have a positive impact on their health as well. Make sure their feet are healthy by visiting a podiatrist, and ensure they are wearing glasses if they need them and well fitting shoes.
Medicines and dangerous items
[break]Always make sure you store medication and hazardous substances out of reach and in a locked cupboard. This includes alcohol, paint and DIY materials. Consider whether decorative plants or fruit might be mistaken for food – even shampoo bottles can look like they might contain food or drink, so keep them out of sight too. Store any scissors or sharp tools in a locked drawer or cupboard, and consider using child-proof locks or doorknob covers.
[break]If the person lives on their own, or spends long periods of time alone, arrange for someone to drop in regularly to check on them. This could be a friend or a care-worker if they need extra support. Give a spare key to a trusted neighbour, and make sure they are aware of who to contact in an emergency. It can also be useful to let neighbours know if your loved one is likely to wander outside, so they can watch out for them.
Adaptations to the home
[break]Elderly people with dementia can struggle with everyday tasks such as bathing, cooking and getting around the home. You can help by making sure appliances are simple and safe to use, such as using an electric kettle which switches off automatically. Make sure water temperature is set to a low level to avoid burns, and consider installing safety bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom. Remove locks from bathroom doors so they cannot get locked inside. It can also be helpful to seek advice from an occupational therapist, who will be able to suggest adaptations you can make, as well as recommending assistive technology and equipment.
Be prepared for emergencies
[break]Keep a list of emergency contacts somewhere visible next to the phone. This can include any relevant contact numbers, such as their doctor, social worker or the local police station. It can also be helpful to make a list of useful information such as where to find the fuse box or stopcock, and the location of medications or first aid supplies. If they become distressed easily, include advice on how to reduce their anxiety and aid communication.