Is Your Home Alzheimer’s Proof?

June is National Home Safety Month which begs the question: Have you looked around your home recently to make sure it’s safe for your loved one with Alzheimer’s?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Identify, intervene and plan for driving safety. And then, hide your car keys (they may trigger a desire to drive even if the individual with memory loss has stopped driving).
  • If you have firearms in your home, keep them in a locked cabinet without the ammunition. Consider removing firearms from your home altogether. Local law enforcement can assist with this.
  • Monitor your loved one’s movements in the house and anticipate incidents of wandering. Remember, everyone with Alzheimer’s disease is at risk for wandering! Use a motion sensor alarm or child monitor to alert you at night or if you are in another area in your home. Place locks on the tops and/or bottoms of doors (they are less visible here) and enroll your loved one in the Alzheimer Association’s MedicAlert and Safe Return program.
  • Create clear, clean and safe walking paths in your home. Remove small tables and furniture from well-used walking paths. Remove small area rugs to prevent falls.
  • Remove sharp knives and scissors from the kitchen and other areas of your home. A caregiver once shared a story with me about her Mother using a very sharp kitchen knife as a hairbrush. Her quick thinking ensured her Mother’s well-being, but these everyday items can be a hazard for individuals with impaired judgment and cognition.
  • Be aware of prescription medications, vitamins and over-the-counter remedies that may be toxic if ingested in large amounts. Consider keeping medications locked, out of the medicine cabinet and away from the kitchen or bathroom counters.
  • Utilize child-proof locks and door knob covers to limit access to toxic cleaners, knives, appliances and unsafe areas.
  • Consider removing locks from a bathroom door so the individual does not become locked in. Remove bath mats, monitor slippery surfaces and install grab bars to enhance independence and safety.
  • Be aware of your loved one’s use of home appliances. Unplug small appliances when not in use and remove your stove’s knobs or get stove knob covers to prevent burns and fires.

You can visit your local hardware store or online resources to find child-proof locks, stove knob covers and other safety items.

Here is a great room-by-room list for home safety.

Check out this comprehensive Worksheet on Home Safety, developed by the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. This Worksheet makes an important point: home safety adaptations do not substitute for the necessary supervision of an individual with memory loss who has decreased judgment abilities. And what’s more, caregivers often need assistance and relief from the day-to-day needs of their loved one.