According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25% of older adults fall every year. The risk of falling increases for seniors with dementia, as neurological disorders tend to cause problems with balance and coordination. Dementia also causes confusion, making it more difficult for older adults to navigate their environment.
To overcome these challenges, make sure your loved one's home has plenty of light. In the kitchen, under-cabinet lights brighten the room and make it easier for seniors with vision problems to see what they're doing. Night lights are ideal for reducing the risk of falls if your loved one has to get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or use the bathroom. Consider having an electrician install overhead light fixtures in the bedroom and living room to ensure your loved one doesn't have to rely on small lamps.
If your loved one wants to hold off on moving to an assisted living community, make their home as safe as possible by removing these hazards.
Advances in technology have made it easier for seniors with dementia to live alone during the earliest stages of the disease. If you're worried about your loved one's safety, ask if they're willing to use Amazon Alexa to keep you in the loop. Alexa is a digital assistant that does everything from setting alarms to checking the weather. Your loved one can use an Alexa-enabled device for the following:
Amazon also has a service called Alexa Together, which is designed to enhance safety for older adults who live alone. If you subscribe to Alexa Together, you can set customized alerts, view your loved one's activity feed and add reminders. The activity feed doesn't tell you everything your loved one has been doing, but it shows you that they're actively using the device, which can put your mind at ease if you're worried about their safety. Alexa Together also includes fall detection and 24/7 emergency response services.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, as it has several water sources, any of which can leak and cause someone to fall. It's also difficult for many seniors with dementia to get in and out of the shower, use the toilet and stand at the sink to perform basic grooming activities. To reduce the risk of injury, install grab bars near the toilet, shower and sink. If your loved one has arthritis or another mobility issue, consider having a contractor replace the bathtub with a walk-in shower.
Many people with dementia get confused about their whereabouts, causing them to wander away from home. Wandering increases the risk of injury, as an older person with dementia may step out into traffic or trip over a crack in the sidewalk. To prevent wandering, install keypad locks on all doors leading outside. It's possible to connect these locks to an existing fire alarm system, preventing wandering while also allowing your loved one to escape if a fire breaks out.
Many seniors with dementia want to remain at home for as long as possible, exposing them to certain safety risks. Following these tips can help you keep your loved one safe as you wait for them to make the transition to assisted living. Caregiving is stressful, so consider joining one of the support groups sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association. You'll meet other family caregivers who can share their stories and inspire you to keep going.
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