As a caregiver for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you can do many things to make that person’s home a safer place. You’re probably already familiar with taking steps such as improving lighting in dark hallways, hiding sharp objects, decluttering, and other safety measures.
But don’t overlook the fact that people with Alzheimer’s may not see, touch, smell, taste, and/or hear things as they used to. Here are some things you can do around the house to make life safer and easier given the sensory changes your loved one might be experiencing.
Although there may be nothing physically wrong with their eyes, people with Alzheimer’s may no longer be able to interpret accurately what they see. Their sense of perception and depth may be altered, too.
- Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
- Be careful about small pets. The person with Alzheimer’s may not see the pet and trip over it.
- Limit the size and number of mirrors in your home. Mirror images may confuse the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Have driving ability reassessed if your loved one is still driving and seems to be having trouble with depth perception or other visual changes.
People with Alzheimer’s may experience loss of sensation or may no longer be able to interpret feelings of heat, cold, or discomfort.
- Reset the water heater to 120°F to prevent burns.
- Label hot-water faucets red and cold-water faucets blue or write the words “hot” and “cold” near them.
- Put signs near the oven, toaster, iron, and other things that get hot. The sign could say, “Stop!” or “Don’t Touch—Very Hot!” Be sure the sign is not so close that it could catch on fire. The person with Alzheimer’s should not use appliances without supervision. Unplug appliances when not in use. You can also remove the knobs on the stove
A loss of or decrease in smell is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Use smoke detectors and be sure to check the batteries regularly. People with Alzheimer’s may not be able to smell smoke.
- Check foods in the refrigerator often. Throw out any that have gone bad.
- Ensure your loved one bathes regularly, and uses deodorant. People with dementia may lose track of their own hygiene, including how they smell.
People with Alzheimer’s may not taste as well as before, or they may place dangerous or inappropriate things in their mouths.
- Keep foods like salt, sugar, and spices away from the person if you see him or her using too much.
- Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, perfume, cleaning supplies, and laundry detergent pods. They may look and smell like food to a person with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Keep the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) handy.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may have normal hearing, but they may lose their ability to interpret accurately what they hear. This loss may result in confusion or overstimulation.
- Don’t play the TV, radio, or music too loudly, and don’t play them at the same time. Too many people talking at the same time may also be too much for the person with Alzheimer’s to handle.
- Shut the windows if it’s very noisy outside.
- If the person wears a hearing aid, check the batteries and settings often.
It may not be necessary to make all these changes. However, you should re-evaluate the safety of the person’s home as their behavior and abilities change to ensure their environment supports their current needs.
Source: National Institute on Aging
If you’re caring for an LGBTQ+ person who is living with dementia, you may benefit from a webinar we offered about appropriate, culturally sensitive care. You’ll find the recording here.