Dementia: How to Help Keep Your Elderly Family Member Safe
If you have an elderly family member suffering from the early stages of dementia and currently living in their own home, you likely feel anxious about their safety. While you (and they) may be keen, in terms of your loved one’s mental health and happiness, to help them remain in their own home for as long as is tenable, you’re probably weighing up what you can do to ensure they stay safe.
A range of tech and other solutions can help safeguard your family members and give you valuable peace of mind. Here are the things to consider.
Medical Alert Systems
These systems allow the user to summon help if needed quickly; simply pressing a button summons emergency assistance or, in some cases, to receive non-emergency support via trained professionals.
The best medical alert systems offer automatic fall-detection bracelets, so the alarm will immediately be raised if your loved one suffers a tumble. You may also wish to choose an option that contacts a designated family member as part of the emergency response and can monitor your loved one’s health stats, such as their blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation level.
Many medical alert systems now also offer on-the-go functionality and a GPS tracking feature for even greater peace of mind for you and your relatives.
The Importance of Routine
In the early stages of dementia, doing what you can to help your relatives continue their usual routines is vital. Use handwritten reminders regarding activities like self-care, dressing, washing, and eating: place these notes around the home, where they can easily be seen, to help your loved one continue to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.
It’s important to write these notes clearly, using short, easily understood sentences. If your relative can no longer consistently understand words, use pictures or color codes instead to assist them in navigating their day-to-day lives.
Be Mindful of Trip Hazards
Falls are one of the leading causes of accidents in the elderly population, and for an individual with dementia, the ability to be aware of these risks may be compromised. Due to this, regularly check your relative’s home, being mindful of things like rugs, wires, clutter, or furniture that could pose a trip hazard.
Think about any uneven patches of flooring that could cause problems, too; either use a ramp to mitigate the risk or re-arrange the furniture to make this section of the room inaccessible. Make sure rooms are well-lit, too, and that your loved one has well-fitting, non-slip shoes and socks to better keep them safe.
Ensure Your Loved One Has a Cell Phone
It’s crucial to ensure that your relative has a cell phone they feel comfortable using. There are now cell phones on the market specifically designed for seniors that typically offer a larger screen and are generally easier to operate.
Program this phone with the important numbers your loved one may need, including those of family members, friends, their doctor, and pharmacist. You may also wish to download an emergency app to their phone or a range of games designed to promote mental stimulation.
Make Changes in the Bathroom
It’s common for people living with dementia to experience problems with their vision, which can affect their ability to perceive objects, colors, and patterns properly. To this end, consider fitting a colored toilet seat that’s a different shade to the lavatory itself, and choose brightly colored towels that stand out from the towel rail itself.
Installing grab rails is an important step to ensuring safety, and it’s also essential to remove bath mats and other similar trip hazards. Finally, consider using scald prevention plugs – these change color if the water is too hot and automatically release water down the plughole if it gets too deep to prevent overflow.
Help at Bedtime
To help your loved one sleep well and remain safe, there are a few changes you can make in the bedroom that could make a big difference. Firstly, ensure there’s plenty of space around the bed and no clutter, which could cause them to lose their footing.
A blackout blind or set of heavy curtains can help promote better-quality sleep, while it’s important to ensure the bedding in place is appropriate for the time of year, so there’s no risk of them feeling too hot or getting chilly at night. Installing an easy-to-read clock is a great idea, too, as is a touch-operated bedside light, so your loved one doesn’t need to fumble for a cable.
Finally, some individuals with dementia find it difficult to locate and choose clothes to wear in the morning. Laying out clothes ready can help make life a lot easier for your relatives.
Enlist Home Dementia Care Services
And finally, if your loved one needs a little more support to continue to live independently but isn’t yet ready to move into a care facility, then enlisting some specialist dementia home care could be the perfect solution.
Certified nursing assistants can visit your relative in their home to help with health needs, or in-home health aides offer assistance with, for example, light housework, cooking, and other non-medical needs.