A Helping Hand for Hoosier Alzheimer's Caregivers  - When you need a helping hand
Home Safety

Home safety tips:

Preparing for Alzheimer's caregiving Caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's can be rewarding — and stressful. Follow these home safety tips to help keep your loved one out of harm's way.

Home safety is important for everyone — but it carries added significance for caregivers. 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 put your loved one at risk of a fall or injury. To prevent stressful and dangerous situations, consider these home safety tips for caregivers.

Evaluating home safety

Start by thinking about your loved one's behavior, abilities and health. Can your loved one safely walk up and down stairs? Does he or she tend to wander or get up at night? Has he or she fallen before? Then check each room for potential hazards and make a note of any 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.

Kitchen safety tips

In the kitchen:

  • 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 and scissors.

  • 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.

  • Remove artificial fruits or vegetables or food-shaped magnets. These objects might appear to be edible.

Bedroom safety tips 

In the bedroom:

  • Install a monitoring device. A baby monitor will help you hear if your loved one falls or needs help. This might be particularly helpful if your loved one has advanced dementia.

  • 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. 

Living room safety tips

In the main living areas:

  • Avoid clutter. Recycle newspapers and magazines. Keep areas where people walk free of furniture. Keep plastic bags out of reach. Limit knickknacks and other decorative objects. Trim large plants, and remove any plants that might be toxic if eaten.

  • Mark glass doors, windows and furniture. Place a decal on glass at your loved one's eye level, if possible, to help him or her see glass panes.

  • Take caution when using fireplaces. Don't leave your loved one alone with an open fire in the fireplace.

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.

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.

Winter Safety Tips

As the temperature finally dips into seasonal ranges for winter, those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia should all be on notice that snow, extreme temperatures and early darkness present special problems. 

A loved one with Alzheimer’s won’t necessarily dress appropriately for colder weather. Cover as much exposed skin as possible and provide several layers of lightweight clothing for easy movement, especially if plans include time outside. A hat is important since so much body heat escapes from an uncovered head and don’t forget to add a scarf to cover up an exposed neck. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves and may be easier to help get on and off. Clips designed for skiers can help keep track of gloves or mittens that are otherwise easily misplaced or lost.

Sundowning

It is a term that refers to increased anxiety, confusion and even increased sleepiness due to the decreased sunlight in the winter months. Visual perception is already an issue for many people with Alzheimer’s and can cause increased confusion or disorientation in dark or shadowy environments both inside and out. Turn lights on earlier, open curtains during daylight hours and add bulbs that simulate sunlight. Install motion detector lights to help illuminate walkways around the home as darkness may fall before arriving home from an outing. Dressing in light or bright colors or adding reflective material to clothing will help a loved one be more easily seen.

To avoid slips and falls

Make sure boots are non-skid. There are many boot styles on the market that use Velcro instead of laces to allow the person with dementia some success with dressing themselves. Try separate “tracks” that attach to the soles for added traction on icy surfaces. You can also add a sharp tip to canes for that extra grip on winter days. This device is available at home health care stores.

Assume ALL surfaces are slick and by taking smaller steps and slowing down, the person with Alzheimer’s can match gait and speed to a safer level.

Perception problems can make it difficult for the person with Alzheimer’s to see ice on the sidewalk or realize that ice is slippery or that snow is not a solid surface.

Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow to make walking outside safe for everyone, but do not overuse ice melt products which can reduce traction.

Use indoor or garage parking whenever possible.
Especially on stairs or slick spots, insist on handrail use and walk arm in arm when possible.

Acquire and use a State issued Handicapped placard enabling closer access to the door of buildings.


Offer safety for wandering. Wandering is one of the most frequent and challenging problems that caregivers face. About 67% of people with dementia will wander and become lost during the course of the disease, and most will do so repeatedly.

Wandering may be triggered when
a person with Alzheimer's disease:

• Tries to search for familiar objects, surroundings or people when they no longer recognize their environment.
• Tries to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work or taking care of a child.
• Reacts to the side effects of medication that cause restlessness and confusion.
• Tries to escape stress caused by noise, crowds or isolation.
• Is not getting enough physical activity.
• Is fearful of unfamiliar sights, sounds or hallucinations.
• Searches for something specific such as food, drink,the bathroom or companionship.

Never assume that being at home with someone who has Alzheimer’s makes wandering less of an issue. It only takes a moment for someone to leave the house, and the confusion and disorientation that accompany the disease means a friend or loved one can get hopelessly lost in a matter of minutes. Having some type of tracking device can provide peace of mind that a loved one could be located within a short period of time after becoming separated. Medic Alert + Safe Return and Comfort Zone are two programs that protect people diagnosed with dementia in case of a medical emergency or a wandering incident.  

It is not uncommon for a wanderer to require medical attention following an incident. Through the use of a 1-800 number, MedicAlert + Safe Return provides the member’s personal health record including medical conditions, medications and allergies and can be updated 24-hours a day through a private online account or by calling the toll free number during business hours.

When someone enrolled in the program wanders, the MedicAlert + Safe Return hotline activates the resources of law enforcement, medical professionals and the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter staff to assist the member when an incident – either wandering or a medical emergency – occurs.
Comfort Zone® is a comprehensive web-based location management service. Families can remotely monitor a person with Alzheimer’s by receiving automated alerts throughout the day and night when a person has travelled beyond a preset zone. The alert can be received in any location, even notifying family members or caregivers in another state. This program is particularly useful for those in the early stages who want to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as they are able. Comfort Zone uses a location-based mapping service, or LBS. This term refers to a wide range of services that provide information about a person's (or object's) location very similar to a GPS device for turn-by-turn driving directions or tracking packages online. A person with Alzheimer's wears or carries a locator device (such as a pager or cell phone) or mounts one in his or her car.

To learn more about MedicAlert + Safe Return and Comfort Zone, contact the Alzheimer’s Association  at 800-272-3900.

www.alz.org

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.

www.mayoclinic.com

HOME MODIFICATION

Includes major or minor adaptations to the interior or exterior home environments that make it possible to carry out daily activities more safely and independently, for example, building a ramp, lowering light switches, or installing non-skid strips on stairs.

A good video to watch concerning how to design a dementia-friendly home.  Please click on the link below:



Who provides home modifications in Indiana?

Results of a 2002 survey provided the following results:

Types of Providers:

Entities providing or facilitating home modification services in the state vary widely in size, type, and geographical scope of service, including businesses, public/government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. The categories of home modification providers/facilitators with the greatest representation among the survey respondents are Area Agencies on Aging (29%), construction/remodeling businesses (17%), disability service agencies (13%), and Independent Living Centers (9%).

The survey identified the following additional entities that provide or facilitate home modification services in Indiana:

• Occupational therapy providers

• Community development corporations

• Municipal and county government agencies

• Community action agencies

• Volunteer organizations such as Rebuilding Together/Christmas in April

• Volunteer efforts organized by groups such as churches and local religious charities, United Way, Retired Senior Volunteer Programs, service clubs, trade unions, and retail businesses such as Lowe’s

• Vocational Rehabilitation agencies

• Aging social service agencies

• Non-profit housing corporations

• Home health agencies

• Independent case managers
Types of modifications/repairs provided or facilitated. 80% or more of the respondents reported that they make available the following types of modifications:

• Install ramp

• Install grab bars, handrails, push bars or kick plates on doors, lever door handles; change cabinetry hardware

• Hand-held showers (portable or permanently affixed), raised toilet seats, modified faucets, install anti-scalding devices
More than 50% of respondents make available the following types of modifications or repairs:

• Widen doorways, adjust cabinet countertop or appliance heights, change kitchen appliances

• Install roll-in shower, make bathtub alterations

• Install security lighting, locks, security alarm system, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors; lower door viewer (peep hole)

• Make minor repairs

• Install light switches, modified electrical outlets

• Install or add on first floor bathroom, bedroom, laundry

• Provide winterization, energy conservation
Other services frequently (35–46%) provided or facilitated include the following:

• Make major repairs

• Install elevator or stair lift, platform lift, shower or bed hydraulic lift

• Computerized environmental controls, automatic door openers

• Maintain and repair heating and air conditioning

• Install flashing light system for hearing impaired residents, TTY telephone

• Upgrade electrical or cooling system
Where Providers Offer Services. 11% of home modification providers reported that they serve the entire state. The remaining providers indicated serving smaller geographic areas, collectively covering 91 of the 92 counties.


http://homemods.org/resources/PDF/IndianaHM_report.pdf


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