Staying Safe at Home
As AD progresses, some people experience personality and behavior changes and do things that may endanger themselves. Many people with dementia, for example, wander from home and become lost at some point. Some, confused about the difference between day and night, wake up, get dressed, and start to leave the house in the middle of the night, thinking the day has just started. Many suffer losses of hearing, vision, taste, or smell. They don't hear phones or smell what's burning in the oven.
The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center advises that you modify the home environment:
Display emergency numbers and your home address near all telephones. Use an answering machine or voice mail to answer phone calls and set it to turn on after the fewest number of rings possible. A person with AD may become unable to take messages. Be wary of telephone exploitation and fraud. Turn ringers on low to avoid distraction and confusion.
Install smoke alarms near all bedrooms and carbon monoxide detectors in appropriate places; check their functioning and batteries frequently.
Install secure locks on all outside doors and windows.
Hide a spare house key outside in case the person with AD locks you out of the house.
Avoid clutter, which can create confusion and danger. Limit use of extension cords, placing lamps and appliances close to electrical outlets. Tack extension cords to the baseboards to avoid tripping.
Cover unused outlets with childproof plugs.
Place red tape around floor vents and radiators.
Put away heating pads and electric blankets.
Throw out or recycle newspapers and magazines regularly. Keep all walk areas free of furniture, scatter rugs, and space heaters.
Keep plastic bags out of reach.
Lock up all power tools and machinery.
How can I encourage my loved one to give up driving gradually?
Ask him to look into other means of transportation: getting rides, using public transit, calling cabs, or hiring a driver. Urge him to try out a few. Be sure you or someone responsible goes with him when he tries out local buses or car services.
Be sure to safety-proof outdoors as well. Keep steps sturdy and textured to prevent falls in wet or icy weather. Mark the edges of steps with bright or reflective tape. Think about installing a ramp with handrails at an entrance to the home rather than using steps. Eliminate uneven surfaces, walkways, hoses, planters, or other objects that may cause someone to trip.
In addition, you should restrict access to a swimming pool by fencing it in. Put away your gas grill and any fuel sources or fire starters when they're not in use. Be sure to supervise any time anyone in the household uses the grill.
Be sure to keep all prescription and over-the-counter medicine in one place. Label each prescription medicine with the patient's name, name of the drug, drug strength, dosage frequency, and expiration date. Use sorters and pill reminders to keep track of daily doses.
Alcohol and Cigarettes
You should keep all alcohol in a locked cabinet or out of reach of the person with AD. Drinking alcohol can increase confusion. If someone in the household smokes, remove matches, lighters, ashtrays, and cigarettes from view. This will reduce fire hazards. It may also encourage someone with Alzheimer's who smokes to quit or cut down, smoking only when someone else is present.