1. Assess and reassess.
Abilities vary greatly among people with dementia and can disappear suddenly. Regularly reevaluate balance, coordination, strength and the ability to sit, stand and walk with or without assistance. Add more safety features as needed. Writing your observations in a notebook or on your phone will help you keep track. Report changes to the doctor.
2. Designate a danger zone
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People with dementia forget the purpose of things and how to use them. They may think wiper fluid is juice or be unaware that the grill is hot. To make the home safer, turn the garage, workroom, closet, outdoor shed, recycled TV armoire or a large cabinet into a storage place for:
- cleaning products
- paint, turpentine, stain
- sharp knives, scissors, box cutters, blades
- tobacco products, including chewing tobacco
- hand and power tools
Install key or combination locks on rooms and other storage places containing potentially dangerous items. In addition, use childproof doorknob covers or cabinet locks.
3. Secure household items. Use childproof locks on drawers and cabinets containing:
- electric appliances — including food processors, blenders, plug-in frying pans and kitchen grills, coffee makers, toasters, space heaters, hair dryers, iron, vaporizers, curling irons
- kitchen knives
- laundry pods
- daily cleaning supplies
- medicine, including vitamins
4. Prevent falls. Get furniture designed to keep your loved one safe, including:
- a recliner that lifts to assist getting up and standing
- bed rails or a hospital bed
5. Employ technology. Consider using:
- seat cushions, floor mats and bed pads that are wired to alert you when your loved one gets up or leaves a room
- motion-sensor alarms outdoors, in your family member’s bedroom and the kitchen
- a video monitor (some are motion-activated)
6. Go on pantry patrol.
- Make regular pantry and refrigerator inspections. People with dementia may eat spoiled, expired, raw and moldy food.
- Put certain foods out of sight. When judgment becomes impaired, a jar of maraschino cherries or instant coffee crystals may seem like a good meal.
- Limit your pet’s mealtimes, and remove the bowl so your loved one doesn’t snack on kibble.
- Keep a close eye on permanent fixtures that can become hazards — including garbage disposals, ovens, stovetops and gas fireplaces.
- Car keys should be inaccessible.
- Firearms should be kept in a gun safe or off the property.