Caring for an Elderly Parent with Dementia? 7 Steps to Make Their Homes Safer Right Now

By: | Tags: , , | Comments: 0 | October 10th, 2015

Safety is always a priority when caring for elderly parents or loved ones who have been exhibiting signs of dementia symptoms or given a dementia diagnosis. As stages of dementia progress and dementia symptoms worsen, a caregiver’s tactic of care and supervisory habits will need to be adjusted accordingly. However, while dementia care is an expansive topic, the suggestions presented here are tasks families caring for elderly parents can do within minutes. Each suggestion is designed to develop a simple solution to commonly overlooked problems or to promote a safer environment for loved ones.

1. Make an Appointment With Your Loved One’s Doctor

The first step in developing a safe environment when caring for elderly parents with dementia symptoms is determining the level of care needed. The best way to fully understand your loved one’s needs is to have a discussion with their physician and neurologist. Ask for their professional recommendation, along with an appropriate assessment from a care manager, social worker, or geriatric specialist.

2. Organize the Medications

Taking medication appropriately is essential for elderly people with dementia symptoms. However, without an organized, simple system it may be challenging. Medication organizers are available at every drugstore to meet a variety of dementia care needs. Many come with locks and alarms, so pre-organized pills are unlocked, and a noise goes off reminding the individual to take the medication at specific times. Online pharmacy services such as PillPack may be a godsend for busy caregivers. Otherwise, sorting meds into Ziploc baggies, Tupperware, or other individual, daily compartments is a good way to organize pills by day or dosage.

3. Reduce Kitchen Dangers

One of the most hazardous threats to individuals with dementia is cooking on the stove. Unplugging electric stoves and turning off gas valves is the easiest way to avoid this risk. Supervision while the stove is on, or utilizing different cooking techniques included slow cookers, microwaves, or meal delivery services are all valid alternatives.

4. Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The chance of a fire poses a realistic danger to elderly people with dementia symptoms. Smoke detectors that are too quiet, out of batteries, or have not been installed in essential areas (outside of each bedroom, in the kitchen, and on every level of the home) are not helpful in saving lives.  As the Chicago winter gets closer it will be a good time to check carbon monoxide detectors. A faulty furnace can cause carbon monoxide leaks which can be deadly. Carbon Monoxide poisoning often goes undetected, and having a detector will be life saving. If you can afford it utilize the latest smart phone and smart home technologies such as the Nest series of products to stay constantly connected to the alarms so they can alert you when emergencies do occur.

5. Remove Bathroom Risks

Caring for the elderly requires a certain set of equipment, particularly in the bathroom. If appropriate grab bars have not been installed, check to see if there are other ways your loved one is getting in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet. Towel racks, toilet paper holders, and other fixtures are often used as leverage, a truly dangerous option. These fixtures have not been adequately secured in the wall. They are not designed to support any weight besides that of a towel, and using them as a mobility tool is serious risk for your loved one. While installing grab bars may require a trip to the store or a visit from a contractor, removing those towel bars can and should happen with just a drill or screwdriver.

6. Illuminate Dark Areas

Hallways, doorways, and the tops and bottoms of staircases are often locations you have to pass through in order to reach the light switch. To reduce the risk of falling, consider cheap plug in nightlights. Use them everywhere there is a dark passageway to avoid your loved one having to fumble around in the dark for the light switch.

7. Put Emergency Papers in the Car

Family members caring for elderly parents should always keep legal documentation such as medical releases and power of attorney in the glove compartment of their car. In the instance of an emergency, there is no searching for papers, or forgetting them in the rush.

8. Start Talking About a Plan to Deal with the Progression of Dementia

As aging parents begin to show increasing signs of dementia, they will begin to require higher levels of care. The earlier families caring for elderly parents start discussing long-term strategies, the easier and more natural the transition will be. Don’t be afraid to bring up uncomfortable topics simply because they haven’t occurred yet. Conversations about in home care or respite care, long term planning, and financial management might be uncomfortable, but they are necessary.

The process of caring for elderly parents with a dementia diagnosis unfortunately does not get simpler, and the sooner the necessary supports are in place, the better off everyone, including your loved ones, will be. If you do require some assistance with respite care, or care for a few hours a week you can call ActiveCare Home Care any time 24 hours a day, or use our contact form and someone will be in contact with you shortly.

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