Alzheimer’s Disease – A Guide to Caring for Your Loved One at Home
We have compiled this guide to assist you with providing a safe and comfortable environment for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. Our suggestions on how to safeguard your home are intended to minimize the possibility of accidents that may occur with the progression of the disease. It may be helpful for you to walk through your home with this checklist to determine if you’ve done all you can to create a safe and comfortable environment for your loved one.
Safety in Your Home
- Display emergency phone numbers and your home address near all telephones.
- Install smoke alarms near all bedrooms; check to see that batteries work.
- Hide a spare house key outside in case anyone gets locked out of the house.
- Avoid use of extension cords if possible by placing lamps and appliances close to electrical outlets.
- Tack extension cords to baseboards in rooms to avoid tripping.
- Remove scatter rugs. Any small rugs should have a non-slip backing. Cover unused outlets with childproof plugs.
- Place red tape around floor vents, radiators, and other heating devices to deter standing on or touching a hot grid.
- Check all rooms for adequate lighting.
- Place light switches at the top and the bottom of stairs.
- Stairways should be carpeted and have at least one handrail that extends beyond the first and last steps.
- All medications should have child resistant caps and remain locked.
- Keep alcohol in a locked cabinet or out of reach.
- Remove matches, lighters, cigarettes, ashtrays and other means of smoking from view.
- Avoid clutter which can create confusion and danger.
- Throw out/recycle newspapers and magazines regularly.
- Keep all walk areas free of furniture.
- Keep plastic bags out of reach to prevent choking or suffocation.Remove all guns or other weapons, or safety-proof them.
- Lock all power tools and machinery in the garage, workroom, or basement. Remove all poisonous plants from the home.
- Keep fish tanks out of reach.
- Make sure all computer equipment and accessories, including electrical cords, are kept out of the way.
Safety in the Bedroom
- Use a night-light.
- Use an intercom to alert you to any noises indicating falls or a need for help.
- Remove portable space heaters. If you use portable fans, be sure objects cannot be placed in the blades.
- Remove scatter rugs.
- Move the bed against the wall for increased security.
Safety in the Bathroom
- Remove the lock from the bathroom door to prevent anyone from getting locked inside.
- Place nonskid adhesive strips, decals, or mats in the tub and shower. If the bathroom is uncarpeted, place strips next to the tub, toilet, and sink.
- Use washable wall-to-wall bathroom carpeting to prevent slipping on wet tile floors.
- Use an extended toilet seat with handrails or install grab bars beside the toilet.
- Install grab bars in the tub/shower. The grab bar should be in contrasting color to the wall.
- Use a foam rubber faucet cover in the tub to prevent injury.
- Use a plastic shower stool and a hand-held showerhead to make bathing easier.
- In shower, tub and sink, use a single faucet that mixes hot and cold water to avoid burns.
- Adjust water heater to 120 degrees to avoid scalding tap water.
- Install lock on medicine cabinet or remove toiletries and medicines.
- Insert drain traps in sinks to catch small items that may be lost or flushed down the drain.
- Remove cleaning products from under the sink or lock them away.
- Use a night-light.
- Remove small electrical appliances from the bathroom.
- Cover electrical outlets.
- Safety Outside of the Home
- Reinforce any shaky steps and use textured strips on them.
- Mark edges of steps with bright or reflective tape.
- Consider using a ramp with handrails going into or out of the home rather than steps.
- Fix uneven surfaces or walkways that may cause a person to trip.
- Restrict access to a swimming pool area by fencing it off with a locked gate.
- Place a small bench or table near the entry door to hold packages while unlocking the door.
- Make sure outside lighting is adequate.
- Consider light sensors that turn lights on automatically.
- Clip bushes and foliage near walkways and doorways.
Safety in the Kitchen
- Install childproof door latches on storage cabinets and drawers which contain breakable or dangerous items.
- Place household cleaning products, matches, knives, scissors, blades, small appliances, and valued china in locked cabinets.
- Remove scatter rugs and foam pads from the floor.
- Remove knobs from the stove or install an automatic shut-off switch.
- Use a night-light in the kitchen.
- Remove artificial fruits and vegetables or kitchen magnets shaped like food if they appear to be edible.
- Insert a drain trap in the kitchen sink to catch objects that may otherwise become lost or could clog the pipes.
- Consider dismantling the garbage disposal.
Adapting and Familiarizing Surroundings
- Use familiar sights and sounds around the home which are recognizable to help keep your loved one’s memory active.
- Place large photographs of family members and pets around the home to help stimulate memory.
- Place large print books around the home for the person to read. Books with a lot of pictures are also a good idea if they find reading difficult.
- Play music that is familiar to the person. Sounds from nature and chamber music may be good choices.
- Keep the house quiet. People with Alzheimer’s do better in a calm, quiet place. Turn off TV and radio when not in use.
- Keep items in the same place so the person feels comfortable and does not become confused.
Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness, which can be confused with age-related memory change. Most people with mild forgetfulness do not have Alzheimer’s disease.
The purpose of the list below is to alert you to early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If someone has several or most of these symptoms, it does not mean they definitely have the disease. It does mean they should be evaluated by a doctor.
Some of the warning signs are:
- Asking the same question over and over again or repeating the same story. Substituting or making up words that sound like or mean something similar to the forgotten word.
- Mood swings — calm to tears to anger.
- Forgetting how to cook, or how to make repairs, or how to play cards — activities that were previously done with ease and regularity.
- Losing the ability to pay bills or balance the check book.
- Getting lost in familiar surroundings or misplacing household objects.
- Neglecting to bathe, or wearing the same clothes over and over again, while insisting that they have taken a bath or that their clothes are still clean.
- Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions they previously would have handled themselves.
- Forgetting how to eat, eating only one kind of food, or eating constantly.
- Losing spark or zest for life – inability to start anything.
- Having difficulty with learning new things.