Dementia is a worldwide concern affecting a great number of older people. However, dementia itself is not a disease. It is a syndrome that refers to a chronic and progressive decline in memory and thinking ability, which can affect a person’s behavior and capacity to perform normal daily activities.
Memory loss is a normal sign of aging but to be considered normal, it shouldn’t limit your ability to perform daily tasks. A severe decline in a person’s mental capacity is no longer a normal sign of aging.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people suffering from dementia around the world is estimated to be 47 million. This statistic is expected to increase to 75 million come the year 2030. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of total dementia cases.
Why is Home Safety a Big Deal?
As a person’s dementia worsens, safety issues become increasingly vital to prevent accidents and injuries. People with dementia might forget what is safe and what is not, due to their diminished mental abilities in areas such as:
- Behavior. They might get easily disoriented and suspicious.
- Judgment. They might forget how to use household tools and appliances.
- Physical ability. They might suffer from balance problems.
- Senses. They might experience vision and hearing changes as well as diminished sensitivity to temperature and depth perception.
Home Safety Tips and Precautions
To reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, here are some safety tips and precautionary measures that you can follow.
1. Evaluate house hazards.
Allot some time to determine hazards in the house that might pose danger to your family member with dementia. Evaluate the corridors, stairs, kitchen, garage, garden, and laundry area and identify the tools and equipment that need to be locked away. Install safety sensors where necessary.
2. Secure garage tools.
Power equipment and tools found in the basement and garage can be dangerous to people with dementia. They might forget how to operate them, which might lead to accidents. Poisonous chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, spray paints, and gasoline should be stored out of reach.
3. Install adequate lighting.
People with dementia can be easily disoriented. Keep the lighting around your house consistent. Install additional lights in bathrooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Put night lights in hallways and stairs to prevent fall-related injuries.
4. Remove clutter.
Balance is something that people with dementia have to struggle with. Keep your floors free from clutter and trip hazards such as folded carpets, toys, litters, magazines and magazine racks, and coffee tables.
5. Be ready for emergencies.
Keep a list of emergency numbers of the nearest police station, hospital, and fire department in case of emergency. Since people with dementia are at risk of having injuries, it is also important to have a first aid kit handy. The best first aid kit ready will be fully stocked with basic supplies like gauze, elastic bandages, and disinfecting solutions.
6. Keep medications locked in a drawer.
People with dementia might have trouble distinguishing the right drug to take. They might also get confused whether they have already taken their medicine or not. For this reason, caregivers should secure medications in a locked cabinet or drawer. Organize the pills in pill organizers and keep a daily medication log in order to avoid missing a dose.
7. Prevent bathroom injuries.
Many fall-related injuries happen in the bathroom. Keep your bathroom secured by installing adequate lighting, grab bars and shower chairs. Put adhesives on rugs and carpets to prevent slipping accidents.
8. Prevent kitchen injuries.
To ensure kitchen safety, keep knives, scissors, and other sharp tools out of sight. Opt for kitchen appliances that have automatic shut-off features to prevent fires in case your family member with dementia forgets to turn the appliance off. Remove plastic plants and fruits from your kitchen. People with dementia might fail to discriminate between the fake and real foods.
9. Dress them according to the weather.
Many people with dementia are older adults and older people find it difficult to regulate their body temperature compared to younger people. As dementia worsens, your family member might forget to wear appropriate clothes for the weather.
10. Mind the temperature of their food and water.
People with dementia might forget how to differentiate hot and cold foods. Make sure that they are properly supervised when eating and drinking. Facilitate their bath by ensuring that the temperature of the water is just right.
Safe or Restricted?
Considerable care is needed for people with dementia. However, although safety is a major concern, family members and caregivers must not forget to let these patients have some form of physical activity, social interaction, and recreation. Giving them some form of guided independence is essential to boost their morale and sense of self-worth.
REFERENCES:  “10 facts on dementia.” World Health Organization, Apr. 2017, www.who.int/features/factfiles/dementia/en/.  “What Is Dementia?” Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp.  “Home Safety and Alzheimer's.” Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-home-safety.asp.  Yapucu Güneş, Ülkü, and Ayten Zaybak. “Does the body temperature change in older people?” Wiley Online Library, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 13 Aug. 2008, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.02272.x/abstract;jsessionid=A00435446825F73712236C14FBB08637.f02t03