“Roy gets so confused sometimes, and when he does, he starts to panic. I lay awake at night worrying about how to care for him and worrying about his safety when I’m not around. What can I do?”
If this situation sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Safety concerns for a spouse or other loved one in need of memory care can overshadow nearly all aspects of your daily life. Oftentimes, caregivers suffer a great deal of physical and emotional stress. The care for and worrying about your loved one can take a toll on you and your family.
Find safety tips you can use to help those with dementia below, as well as learn about the benefits memory care could offer your loved one.
How Dementia Affects a Person’s Safety
In its various forms, dementia causes changes in the brain that impair judgment, alter key senses like vision, hearing and depth perception, and impact behavior.
This can lead to someone with dementia becoming easily confused, afraid or suspicious. And because in later stages of the disease, many people lose track of time and place, it’s easy to see why it’s important to create a safe environment for those with dementia.
Home Safety Tips
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia at home, it’s critically important to make sure the household is as safe and secure for them as possible. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, most accidents take place during routine activities, like eating or using the restroom.
Take the following measures to ensure their safety as well as that of others in the home.
Avoid serving food and drinks that are too hot or cold. Your loved one may not be able to tell the temperature difference.
Remove clutter and tripping hazards. These can be hard to navigate around for someone with dementia. Tape down or remove throw rugs, make sure there are clear paths through rooms and add lighting to dark areas. Dementia can sometimes make it difficult to see clearly; even lighting and night lights can help.
Remove potentially toxic substances. Throw away or lock up cleaners, paints, pesticides, house plants, laundry detergent packs and anything that could be mistaken for food or harmful if eaten.
Take precautions with dangerous objects. Consider removing the knobs from appliances and installing a hidden gas valve (on a gas stove) so the person with dementia can’t turn it on. Never leave items like knives and power tools where they could be found. Finally, consider completely removing guns and ammo from your home.
Dementia and Wandering Behavior
Wandering behavior is common among people with dementia. The person with dementia may want to “go home” (even if he or she is technically already at home), try to leave the house or get lost going to a familiar place or room.
This behavior can lead to unsafe situations, so it’s important to learn how to curb and reduce it. One of the best ways to keep people with dementia safe is by providing them with purposeful activities to do during the day and making sure their needs are met.
You can also try these tips to keep wandering behavior under control:
Help the person get some form of exercise, which can reduce stress, promote feel-good endorphins and improve sleep quality.
Engage the person in simple everyday activities as they are able - like folding towels or sorting objects.
Reassure your loved one if they seem agitated or lost. Let them know that you’re there and that they’re safe, and redirect their attention to something enjoyable.
Avoid busy places that could be overwhelming, like shopping malls.
Keep a deadbolt high up on outer doors. Consider a home security system or secured access to different areas.
How Memory Care Can Benefit Your Loved One
Eventually, you may find that you cannot provide the level of care your loved one with dementia needs at home. Making the decision to move them to specialized memory care is never easy, but ultimately may be the right decision for your loved one as well as your family.
Memory care provides an atmosphere where those with dementia can settle into a routine and in an environment that feels safe. They will have round-the-clock support they trust and can rely on to help them cope with any challenges.
In the right memory care arrangement, your loved one can also make new friends and gain camaraderie. They can also participate in activities and therapies you may not be able to provide at home.
Check out the schedule of activities at an assisted living community to see what community activities, such as music, art or outside trips, they offer. Also ask about therapies and activities specifically for those in need of memory care.
While it may be difficult to think about moving your loved one into assisted living or memory care, take into consideration the safety and security this arrangement would provide. Also, consider your own well-being: You want to remain healthy so you can be there for your loved one.
Learn About Memory Care at Maine Veterans’ Homes
As you’re evaluating your options, don’t overlook the commitment of a memory care community’s staff to your entire family as well as your loved one. The top extended care centers are true advocates for residents and their families.
At Maine Veterans’ Homes, we are veterans serving veterans. We provide memory care at each of our six locations throughout the state. Our residents don’t just experience a safe environment and professional care - they’ll find compassion, purpose and a place to call home.
Schedule your visit at a community near you today and see how memory care could make a difference for your loved one.