Senior Health: Home Safety Tips For People Dealing With Alzheimer's

There are a number of safety issues that must be considered when caring for an Alzheimer's patient in the home.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder caused by the deposit of neuritic plaque around the nerve cells of the brain.This plaque causes a twisting of the bands of fibers within the nerve cells. These nerve cells have a direct impact on memory function, and as these bands of fibers become more and more tangled, an individual stricken with this disease begins to have more and more difficulty with his or her memory.

It is estimated that 4.5 million Americans suffer from this debilitating disease.Statistically, 25 percent of persons over 85 are thought to be affected.With more people living to older ages, some experts predict that by 2030, the number of people with Alzheimer's will increase by 70 percent to 7.7 million.

Being diagnosed with this disease is a devastating blow.It affects not only the patient, but also his or her entire family and circle of friends.Because the disease is progressive and there is no cure, the best course of action usually is to make the sufferer as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.

Most families want to try and keep their loved one at home for as long as it is feasible.This is actually helpful to the afflicted person, as they feel safe and the stress of living in a different environment is not added to the stress of learning about having the disease.The most tragic aspect of this disease is that the person is aware of the diagnosis and the ramifications.Staying at home, among familiar surroundings can actually calm the person as he or she slips further away.

There are a number of ways that a caregiver can ensure the safety of the Alzheimer's patient within his or her home. Initially, many spouses will try to maintain a regular routine and a semblance of normalcy.But, almost from the beginning, certain precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of the Alzheimer sufferer.

No one should attempt to undertake the role of caregiver to an Alzheimer's patient who isn't prepared to spend most of his or her time with that patient. Remember that the person with Alzheimer's will not be able to comprehend the ramifications of certain actions.

The most important thing to consider is prevention.Consider home safety in the same way that you would childproof a home.The Alzheimer's patient is similar to a child in that, over time, they will lose the ability to recognize a dangerous situation. For example, in order to prevent the person from burning themselves on the stove, remove the knobs that control the burners and the oven.

Make sure that all dangerous chemicals are locked away and that no non-food items are in the refrigerator. Keep the refrigerator clean and throw out food as soon as it is past the date of safe consumption.Alzheimer's patients can get sick from eating spoiled foods or condiments.Plants that may be toxic must also be removed to prevent their being eaten.

Install locks on kitchen cabinets that contain items that could be harmful and store knives and other sharp objects out of reach.Remove stools and ladders from the area.Lock access doors to the basement or garage if there are dangerous items stored in either of these locations. Be careful, though, to leave plenty of ways for the individual and the caregiver to exit in the event of fire.

The bathroom should also be checked for harmful chemicals, including cleaner, drain opener and even mouthwash.It is advisable to turn down the temperature on the water heater to prevent scalding.Remember that the patient will eventually lose his or her ability to differentiate between hot and cold, and can burn themselves when showering or using the sink. Install grab bars in the tub and make sure that all electrical outlets are covered.For shaving, switch to an electric razor, and remove all razor blades and disposable razors from the area.

The saddest part of this disease is that the individual does not always realize that he or she can no longer do the things they love, and sometimes accidents can happen in the course of their trying to do something as simple as to cook a meal or mow the lawn.As long as the person is able, encourage them to do the tasks that they love, but stay in the room and supervise, gently.Remember that they may forget how to do the simplest of tasks in time and may fight over any attempt to stop them from doing so.

Guns should also be removed from the house, or locked away safely.This may be particularly difficult if the person had been a sportsman, and this certainly is a sad reminder of the person's demise.However, for the safety of everyone concerned, the Alzheimer's patient must not be able to access any type of weapon.

In the car, make sure that the doors are locked and the individual uses a seat belt.Never leave an Alzheimer's sufferer alone in the car, even for a moment.He or she can get out and wander away, risking serious injury.When shopping, stay together at all times and plan short trips.Be aware that strange situations can frighten an Alzheimer's sufferer.

The biggest fear that most caregivers have is how to prevent their loved one from leaving the house, unsupervised, and wandering away.Doors should always be locked, and it may be advisable to install deadbolt locks that require a key to open from the inside.The key should be kept close by, however, in the event of an emergency.Windows should also be locked.Whenever possible, the patient should sleep on the lower level.Nighttime presents a variety of risks.

Ultimately, there will come a point where the person can no longer stay safely in his or her home.Caregivers struggle with this, but in the end, the safety of the Alzheimer's sufferer should be paramount. Until this point, however, making the home safe allows the individual the comfort and security of familiar surroundings as well as the maintenance of his or her dignity.

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