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Safety is not negotiable

05 Oct 2007
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - October 2007

Individuals affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (AD/RD) gradually lose the ability to perform tasks of daily living. This, combined with memory loss and poor judgment skills, adds up to an accident waiting to happen. Safety precautions need be taken and homes altered to accommodate the person with AD/RD.

Safety suggestions

Declutter the home. A confused mind will feel more at ease in a simple environment that allows space to easily move about. Large, heavy, decorative items should be removed so they won ’t fall onto a person if bumped into. Tuck away electrical wires to avoid trips that can sometimes pull down a lamp or TV, causing injury to the person. Electrical sockets should be covered. Some individuals are disturbed by their reflection; if so, mirrors need to be covered. Glass furniture may not be easily visible to those with Alzheimer’s Disease. Tablecloths and books on coffee tables could solve this problem.

Make pacing safe. Arrange a circular path for walking if at all possible. Area rugs should be removed since they cause many accidental falls. Closed shoes are better than open slippers.

Sliding glass doors need attention as well. You can place coloured tape or decorative decals across the glass at eye level, and hang thin drapes over the doors. All doors should be locked and have alarms installed on them. Locks should be placed high on the door since Alzheimer sufferers tend not to look upwards. Doors can be disguised with decorative wallpaper or pictures. Special door handle covers can prevent the opening of a door.

Secure the bathroom. There should not be a scatter bath rug. A rubberized bath mat is necessary for the shower/bath. A colourful towel hung over the side of the bathtub will help pronounce the bath and its height. An occupational therapist is the professional to consult regarding placement of handle bars in the shower. Medicine cabinets should be locked; even Velcro closures can work. A person with AD/RD may have difficulty seeing white soap, in a white dish, on a white sink. Colours are helpful. The same applies to the toilet. A coloured toilet seat, maybe a cushioned one in case of a bathroom fall, is advisable. Do not leave out shampoos and other such bottles that may be mistaken for something to drink. A person can suffer burns from very hot water. A plumber can regulate the hot water in your home to a safe temperature. An easy path to the bathroom with cued direction, such as fluorescent floor tape, may be needed. A bedroom night light is advisable as well as a light in the bathroom if the bathroom is used during the night.

Lock kitchen cupboards. Sharp objects need to be stored in locked drawers. The kitchen cupboard where toxic cleaning supplies are stored needs to be locked as well. Safety hooks are easy to find in hardware stores.

Secure appliances and furniture. Some individuals may need to have a side rail installed on their bed. Dials should be removed from the stove and oven. Appliances such as coffee makers should have automatic shut-offs.

As you can see from these safety suggestions, the list is quite long. The adjustments you make to your home will depend on the needs and abilities of the person you are caring for. Safety precautions need serious attention and are not negotiable.


Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775