Dementia patients are characterised by changes in senses, fearful and confused behavior, forgetfulness, and poor physical mobility. Due to these changes, a home that a dementia patient has lived in even for decades may suddenly become an unfamiliar and confusing place. It could also potentially become a danger to their safety and health.
Thus, to maintain safety and foster a sense of independence for patients with dementia, it is important for caregivers to modify the home environment and its features so that it is able to better accommodate their needs as elders and as dementia patients. Here is a look at some home modifications needed for caregivers creating a safe home for those with dementia and how the modifications can be made.
- Assess the patient’s home environment
Assessing the home environment of a dementia patient lets you know the exact kind of changes that need to be made to make the home safer for them. It is important to note that dementia is a disease that progressively worsens over time. Thus, when making home assessment, it is important to consider not just their current state (they could be managing relatively well), but also their future state when their condition could have possibly worsened.
During the assessment in and outside the house some of the things to look out for include house arrangement that could impede their movement or make it hard for them to find items they may need and dangerous tools, equipment, and facilities such as knives and swimming pool. To easily find the changes that need to be made you should look at the home environment from the point of view of the patient’s compromised strength, memory, cognitive abilities, coordination, and balance. After making the assessment proceed to make the needed changes based on recommendation of a doctor, social worker, Alzheimer’s Association or American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Jane Byrne from FirstCare points out that one of the biggest issues in healthcare is dementia. “Rising numbers of cases, couples with demographic changes such as a rapidly ageing population, are making dementia one of the major health problems of our times.
- Walkways and Stairs
Make sure that the walkways are always free from hazards that may cause the patient to slip and fall such as ice and leaves. Items such as toys, jump ropes, and balls should also be removed from the walkways. As for the stairs, there should be light switches both at their bottom and top and handrails on the stairway both sides.
Floors should be made non slip and completely safe. Doormats and floor rags that could potentially slip underfoot should be removed and replaced with less slippery ones. You should also do away with torn and loose carpets. Additionally, you should remove extension cords for telephone and electricity that your loved one may step over. Lastly, any changes on the levels of floor should be marked very clearly.
- Kitchen changes
The possibility of a dementia patient being left in the kitchen alone is low. However, this does not mean that no precautions should be taken. These precautions include storing electric appliances and knives in a cabinet and locking it, making it easier to find food as dementia patients may not be able to safely climb on counters, chairs, or stools. Additionally, due to their relative insensitivity to temperature, you should consider installing water faucets that are automatically controlled by temperature. You should also have fire extinguishers around and remove the knobs on the stoves for safety.
- Bathroom changes
Remove the door locks and, to make the surface less slippery, add stickers that are textured. The temperature of the water should be set at lower than 120 Fahrenheit. It is also important that you install well-designed and safe grab bars in consultation with the patient’s doctor or social worker.
Remove the lock of the patient’s bedroom door so that at no given time are they locked either in or out. All other bedrooms should be locked all the time to keep your loved ones from reaching items that could potentially harm them.
Caring for a dementia patient is a challenging task. It can, however, be made easier if the necessary precautions are taken. These precautions create a safe and friendly environment for the patient which allows them to live a safe and rewarding life in spite of their condition.
Updated: May 22, 2019