In Part 1 of this article,
YEI spoke about how to create a safe home environment
for your loved one, suffering from Alzheimers.
In Part 2 of this article,
YEI looks at creating a safe environment outside the home.
While Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect each individual differently, symptoms such as confusion and disorientation, limitations in mobility or coordination, and memory loss pose serious safety concerns. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you may be concerned about their safety.
Many suffering from Alzheimers lose the ability to take care of themselves. Many families decide to move their loved one with Alzheimer’s into their home, as they believe that this is the best course of action. This can be stressful, but many difficulties can be eased by taking some time to create a safe home environment. In part 2 of this article we discuss how you can get started outside the home:
Outside the home.
- Pay particular attention to any steps or stairs. Make sure that they are safe and sturdy and have secure handrails.
- If you have a swimming pool, don’t leave someone with Alzheimer’s in or around the water while unattended. Use multiple safety precautions when the pool is not in use — for example, install a gate and a pool alarm that will go off as soon as someone enters the pool area.
- Keep gates to the street locked. Place a bench in the garden for them to rest, especially if they like walking.
Other helpful tips include
- Put “STOP” signs on all doors leading to the outside.
- Keep car keys hidden out of sight.
- Keep your loved one engaged in safe activities in the home.
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know that your loved one may wander. If they see your loved one outside, they can then contact you or help them get home safely.
- If wandering is a major worry, consider installing alarms on doors and windows that will sound if opened. Consider investing in GPS technology that will let you know where your loved one is if they do wander off. It may also be useful to put their full name and number onto a card which is kept in your loved ones pocket as this may assist anyone who finds them to help them get home.
Travelling with Dementia
- Traveling can be particularly challenging for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, particularly if they frequently become disoriented. Changes in environment can lead to confusion, which for many dementia sufferers, is quite frustrating. If your loved one experiences severe disorientation with changes to the environment, it may be advisable to minimize travel or stick to familiar places
- Communication with your loved one is key especially in the early stages of the disease. Many people cherish their independence and many may resist change and may resist any changes or loss of control in their lives. “The most important thing to remember is that you should keep your loved one as informed and as involved in the decision-making process as possible. By giving them a sense of ownership in making decisions, they’ll feel less like they’re being stripped of their independence. Talk to your loved one about your fears and ask how they’d like certain risks to be addressed if they become a real concern.” says the website Seniorlink.com. “Having these conversations before a crisis is crucial and allows you to develop a plan and know that your decisions will be in line with your loved one’s wishes, even if they are no longer able to actively engage in decision-making when the time comes to implement certain steps.” they continue.
- There is quite a lot to be said about communicating with a dementia patient, can be a topic on its own. When speaking to a PWD (person living with dementia), keep it simple, use words and phrases familiar to them. Always ask close-ended questions = question with a one word answer (eg “ Would you like coffee?” instead of “What would you like to drink?”). Always answer their questions, even if asked many times per day. Try to give the same answer every time.
For more information on Dementia and Alzheimers please contact the following organisations in South Africa
Thank you to Hettie Theron, Senior Social Worker, Western Cape,
Alzheimer’s SA NPC for her helpful comments on this topic
Sources: elderwellness.net, https://www.seniorlink.com/blog/safety-tipshttps://alzheimers.org.za/prevalence-of-dementia/,