How to Prepare your Home

Tips for Ensuring Home Safety

1. Support individual needs: Strive to create a home environment that promotes independence and social interaction while maintaining safety. Clear designated areas for various activities.

2. Evaluate your surroundings: Take special care to identify potential safety risks in specific areas of the home or outdoors, especially for individuals with dementia. Pay attention to garages, workrooms, basements, and outdoor spaces where hazardous tools, chemicals, and cleaning supplies are commonly found.

3. Minimize kitchen hazards:
a. Opt for kitchen appliances with automatic shut-off features.
b. Employ safety measures like stove knob covers, removing knobs or turning off the gas when the stove is not in use.
c. Disconnect the garbage disposal.
d. Remove toxic plants and decorative fruits that could be mistaken for real food.
e. Store vitamins, prescription drugs, sugar substitutes, and seasonings away from kitchen surfaces and tables.

4. Be prepared for emergencies: Keep a list of emergency contact numbers for local police, fire departments, hospitals, and poison control helplines.

5. Ensure functionality of safety devices: Regularly check that carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, as well as fire extinguishers, are in working order. Replace batteries twice a year, preferably during daylight saving time.

6. Install inconspicuous locks: Place latches or deadbolts above or below eye level on all doors. Remove locks from interior doors to prevent individuals with dementia from accidentally locking themselves in. Keep spare keys hidden near the door for easy access.

7. Adequate lighting in walkways and rooms: Well-lit areas help prevent disorientation. Add extra lights in entryways, outside landings, transitional areas between rooms, stairways, and bathrooms. Use night lights in hallways, bedrooms, and bathrooms.

8. Consider firearm safety: If someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is present in the home, it’s advisable to remove guns and other weapons or store them securely in a locked cabinet. The progression of the disease may cause individuals to mistake familiar faces as intruders, leading to potentially dangerous situations.

9. Secure medications: Keep medications in a locked drawer or cabinet. Use a pill box organizer or maintain a daily list to ensure safe administration.

10. Eliminate tripping hazards: Remove throw rugs, extension cords, and excessive clutter to minimize the risk of falls.

11. Monitor water and food temperature: Individuals with dementia may have difficulty discerning between hot and cold. Installing an automatic thermometer for water temperature can help prevent burns or other injuries.

12. Assess bedroom safety: Exercise caution with electric blankets, heaters, or heating pads to prevent burns. Provide seating near the bed to assist with dressing. Arrange closet shelves at an accessible height to avoid climbing and potential falling objects.

13. Secure large furniture: Take measures to prevent tipping of bookshelves, cabinets, or large TVs. Ensure that chairs have armrests to offer support when transitioning from sitting to standing.

14. Prevent bathroom injuries: Install grab bars in the shower, tub, and near the toilet for additional support. Apply textured stickers to slippery surfaces to reduce the risk of falls. Consider installing a walk-in shower for added convenience.

15. Enhance laundry room safety: Store cleaning products like liquid laundry pacs and bleach in secured, out-of-sight containers to discourage accidental ingestion or contact with harmful chemicals. Install safety locks on washing machines and dryers to prevent inappropriate usage. Regularly clean lint screens and dryer ducts to prevent fires.

16. Address safety concerns in the garage and basement: Limit access to large equipment such as lawn mowers, weed trimmers, or snow blowers. Store poisonous chemicals like gasoline or paint thinner out of reach. Install a motion sensor on the garage door.

Preparing Your Home

• Place deadbolts out of the line of sight, either high or low, on exterior doors. (Do not leave a person living with dementia unsupervised in new or changed surroundings, and never lock a person in at home.)
• Use night lights throughout the home.
• Cover door knobs with cloth the same color as the door or use safety covers.
• Camouflage doors by painting them the same color as the walls or covering them with removable curtains or screens.
• Use black tape or paint to create a two-foot black threshold in front of the door. It may act as a visual stop barrier.
• Install warning bells above doors or use a monitoring device that signals when a door is opened.
• Place a pressure-sensitive mat in front of the door or at the person’s bedside to alert you to movement.
• Put hedges or a fence around the patio, yard or other outside common areas.
• Use safety gates or brightly colored netting to prevent access to stairs or the outdoors.
• Monitor noise levels to help reduce excessive stimulation.
• Create indoor and outdoor common areas that can be safely explored.
• Label all doors with signs or symbols to explain the purpose of each room.
• Store items that may trigger a person’s instinct to leave, such as coats, hats, pocketbooks, keys and wallets.
• Do not leave the person alone in a car.

How dementia affects safety

Alzheimer’s disease causes a number of changes in the brain and body that may affect safety. Depending on the stage of the disease, these can include:

Judgment: forgetting how to use household appliances

Sense of time and place: getting lost on one’s own street

Behavior: becoming easily confused, suspicious or fearful

Physical ability: having trouble with balance

Senses: experiencing changes in vision, hearing, sensitivity to temperatures or depth perception