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Home safety tips: Preparing for Alzheimer's caregiving
Bathroom safety tips
In the bathroom:
- Address slippery surfaces. Place nonskid strips or a mat in the bath tub and shower. Unless the bathroom is carpeted, place nonskid strips on the floor near the bath tub, shower, toilet and sink, too.
- Install grab bars. Place grab bars near the toilet and in the bath tub and shower.
- Use a faucet cover in the bath tub. A foam rubber faucet cover can help prevent serious injury if your loved one falls in the bath tub.
- Install a hand-held shower head. A plastic shower stool also can help make bathing easier.
- Lock up potentially hazardous products or electrical appliances. Install childproof latches on bathroom cabinets and drawers to limit access to cleaning products or other potentially dangerous items. Use child-restraint caps on medication containers.
- Reduce water temperature. Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 F (48.9 C).
- Remove door locks. Consider removing locks from the bathroom doors to prevent your loved one from accidentally locking himself or herself in.
Laundry room safety tips
In the laundry room:
- Lock up potentially hazardous products. Install childproof latches on cabinets where you keep detergent and other potentially hazardous supplies.
- Prevent access to the washer and dryer. Close and latch the doors and lids to the washer and dryer. Consider removing large knobs if your loved one tries to tamper with the machinery.
If the laundry room has a door, consider keeping it locked.
Garage, shed and basement safety tips
In the garage, shed and basement:
- Lock up potentially dangerous items. Install childproof latches or locks on cabinets where you keep tools, tackle, machines, sporting equipment, paint, fertilizer, gas, cleaning supplies or other toxic materials. Remove all guns or weapons from your home.
- Lock all vehicles. Consider covering or removing vehicles and bikes that aren't frequently used if your loved one has advanced dementia.
Consider locking the doors to these areas as well.
Outdoor safety tips
To ensure safety outdoors:
- Check exits. If your loved one uses a walker or wheelchair, make sure he or she will be able to get in and out of your home — when necessary. Consider widening doorways or adding ramps.
- Keep steps safe. Mark the edges of steps with bright tape. Keep steps sturdy and textured to prevent falls in wet or icy weather. As an alternative to steps, consider installing a ramp to your home's entrance.
- Restrict access to the pool. If you have a swimming pool or hot tub, surround it with a fence. Install a gate with a lock. Cover the pool or hot tub when it's not in use.
- Avoid clutter. Keep hoses, foliage and other debris off the walkways.
- Safely store fuel sources. Remove fuel sources for your grill or other equipment when not in use.
Other safety precautions
In addition, consider taking these safety precautions throughout your home:
- Prepare for emergencies. Display emergency numbers and your home address near all telephones.
- Adjust the home phone and voice mail settings. Lower the ringer volume of your home phone to prevent distraction and confusion. Set the answering machine or voice mail to turn on after the lowest number of rings. A person who has Alzheimer's might be unable to take messages or could become the victim of telephone exploitation.
- Use night lights. Place night lights in strategic locations — such as your loved one's bedroom and the bathroom — to help prevent your loved one from tripping if he or she gets up at night.
- Keep stairs safe. Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs. Make sure stairs have at least one handrail that extends beyond the first and last steps. Cover stairs in carpet or apply nonskid strips. If your loved one has balance problems, consider installing safety gates in front of stairs.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Place them in or near the kitchen and all sleeping areas. Check them regularly to make sure they work. If your loved one has vision or hearing problems, consider installing a smoke alarm with a vibrating pad or flashing light.
- Check the locks. Make sure there are working locks on all windows and front and back doors. Keep a spare set of house keys outside of the house, in case your loved one locks you out.
- Address outlets and electrical cords. Place lamps close to electrical outlets. Cover unused electrical outlets with childproof plugs.
- Treat slippery or uneven surfaces. Remove scatter rugs. Place nonskid strips or wax on hardwood and tile floors.
- Keep computer equipment out of the way. If you store valuable documents on your computer, protect the files with passwords and create backup files. Consider monitoring your loved one's computer use.
You can buy many products or gadgets necessary for home safety in hardware, electronics, medical supply and children's stores. If you need help making changes to your home, enlist friends, a home safety professional or a community organization.
Remember, paying attention to home safety can help your loved one maintain his or her independence — and ease the stress of caregiving.Previous page
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- Home safety for people with Alzheimer's disease. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/A86CA4FA-CAA9-4E8A-8B38-F5887EFABF2B/0/HomeSafetyupdateFINAL32310.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2011.
- Caregiver guide: Tips for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/C2F11D41-E5FE-435D-9C9D-A3489319D4AD/14142/Caregiver_Guide10MAR12.PDF. Accessed April 18, 2011.
- Making the home safe. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/caregiver-parent-home-safety.php. Accessed April 18, 2011.
- Focus on fire safety: People with disabilities. U.S. Fire Administration. http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/focus/disability.shtm. Accessed April 28, 2011.
- Age page: Falls and fractures. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6C2C1311-604E-4D17-AF62-831D1DD501E1/12811/FallsFracturesPartsAP52709.pdf. Accessed April 28, 2011.