General Home Safety Measures for Alzheimer’s Patients
Nurses use this patient teaching to educate the patient and caregiver about general home safety measures for Alzheimer’s patients as follows:
- Avoid/limit the use of mirrors in patient’s room and restroom, as mirror images can be extremely confusing to an individual with Alzheimer’s. It is very common for an Alzheimer’s patient to interpret the image of self in the mirror as a different person and fearing a threat from this unknown person in the mirror, could attack the mirror leading to injuries & accidents.
- Alzheimer’s patients could poorly interpret sensations of heat, cold, pain, and discomfort. Avoid any unattended use of hot and cold/ice packs on Alzheimer’s patients. The machine could be left running for prolonged duration, which can damage the skin and leave a sore caregiver realizes. This can result in burn injuries from both heat and cold, which could be difficult to heal. For the same reason, caregivers must reset the temperature on the water heater to prevent any accidents from happening. Also, avoid allowing your loved one for an unattended sauna or hot tub bath. Caregivers must also check for the water temperature before the Alzheimer’s individual gets into the shower or sauna or tub bath, to make sure water is just comfortably warm and not leave the site until they are out of it.
- Display water faucets with hot and cold labels if the Alzheimer’s individual retains the ability to recognize the letters and read. Color coding the hot and cold faucets with red and blue respectively can also help, if the Alzheimer’s individual yet retains the ability to fairly distinguish, recognize the colors, and interpret the color coding. Displaying the same signs with caution for other household items, such as, oven, toaster, food & drinks, and hot iron can help prevent accidents. You can also arrange for gates and block the entry of the Alzheimer’s patient into kitchen, thus blocking their access to these risky household items.
- Caregivers must encourage the Alzheimer’s patients to limit or avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol intake can add more dizziness and confusion to the Alzheimer’s patient, which can steeply increase their risk for falls & accidents. Also, excessive alcohol consumption can result in malnutrition states with poor absorption of essential nutrients & vitamins.
- In advanced cases of Alzheimer’s, it is safer to lock all the alcoholic beverages, dish washing liquids, detergents, handwash soaps, bodywash, moisturizers, toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorants, perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, floor and carpet cleaning liquids, and other household products in kitchen cabinets and secure the key out of the patient’s reach. Also, hiding all the matches and lighters out of the patient’s reach and installing automatic shut-off switch on the stove can help prevent fire accidents.
- Caregivers must also lock up the sugar, salt, alcoholic beverages, spice mixes, ketchup, and dough mixes, as some Alzheimer’s patients can consume them in big volumes, thus precipitating an emergency. Arranging for gates and blocking the entry of the Alzheimer’s patient into kitchen can help prevent their access to these risky kitchen products.
- It is also safer to lock any syringes, sharps, sharps containers, scissors, blades, knives, forks power drills, screwdrivers, and any other household objects with a potential to cause a grievous injury. If the patient/caregiver has a gun or other licensed weapon, caregivers must make sure they block the access of the Alzheimer’s patient to these life-threatening devices.
- Many Alzheimer’s patients severely compromised on their mental abilities yet retain the procedural memory regarding performance of some tasks, such as, driving. Gaining access to the car keys can be extremely dangerous to themselves and also to the general public on the road. Caregivers must make sure they block the access of the Alzheimer’s patient to all the vehicle keys by locking them safely in a cabinet and keeping the key off reach for the individual.
- Caregivers must leave notices on the walls displaying the list of emergency phone numbers, such as, 911, caregiver’s name & contact, physician’s name & contact, etc., This can help the Alzheimer’s individual seek immediate assistance during an emergency situation. Alzheimer’s patients often could not recall the name of the caregiver they wish to call in an emergency. They also could find it difficult identifying the caregiver in the contact list on their phone. Memory cell phones are available currently, displaying pictures of the caregivers, physicians, and a dedicated 911 button, thus eliminating the need to remember the name or the number. Memory cell phones can save time for Alzheimer’s patients with seeking help during emergency states and ensures their safety.
- Caregivers must shockproof electrical outlets and gadgets to prevent risk for accidents and electrocution.
- Caregivers must work towards observing compliance with medication intake by the patient, as prescribed, for management of Alzheimer’s. If the patient is independent at medication intake, caregivers can participate in providing timely reminders, filling the weekly pillbox, and checking the pillbox often to make sure of the medication intake. If the patient is dependent on caregiver assistance for medication intake, caregivers must observe compliance with administration of the medication dose on time, as ordered. In advanced cases of Alzheimer’s, it is safer to lock all the prescription and OTC medication in the medication cabinet and secure the key out of the patient’s reach.
- If the individual is a smoker, strongly encouraging for smoking cessation is recommended or allow smoking only during caregiver availability, under close observation. Do not leave the lighter with the Alzheimer’s individual. Having a fire extinguisher readily available and frequent inspection of smoke detectors in all the rooms of the house can be effective safety measures against fire accidents, more so, with Alzheimer’s patients living in.