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Alzheimer’s disease: Creating a safer environment

Adapting your environment

Safety in the home is important for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can make daily activities - including eating, bathing, grooming, dressing and using the toilet - more difficult, so it’s important to modify the living environment to make it as easy as possible for the person with Alzheimer’s to live and function.

What are some general safety measures?

Some practical things which will help create a safer environment include:

  • Have emergency numbers - police, fire, doctor, medical advice and a neighbour’s phone number - readily available in case of emergency. It is probably best to write these numbers on a sticker and put it on the phone receiver.
  • Have at least one phone located where it is always accessible. Keep a cordless phone in your pocket. This is especially important if you fall and can’t get up to use the phone.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work properly.
  • Avoid using space heaters and electric blankets; these are fire hazards.
  • Consider installing a medical alert or personal alarm system for emergencies. Professional systems link directly to a representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a person has an immediate medical problem, he or she simply pushes a button on a special device worn around the wrist or neck, and a signal for help is sent immediately.

Home safety

You should take a good look around your home, especially noting the physical layout and services that are available for support. Some people can continue to live independently if they have complete support services. If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to make sure that they can use the stove or oven safely and be safe in the bathroom - particularly using the bath or shower. A full home safety evaluation can be done by occupational therapists, who are professionally trained to look for potential hazards. Talk to your GP or social services department to arrange for an occupational therapist to visit.

  • Bathroom. The bathroom can be a dangerous place for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. As the person’s ability to function decreases, it may become necessary to install handles in the shower or fold-down shower seats. Also, be sure to use non-slip flooring and slip-resistant mats or tiles in the shower or bath.
  • Furniture. Simplify furniture arrangements. Make it as easy as possible for the person with Alzheimer’s disease to navigate a room and get from point A to point B. Move or remove objects, such as a rug, that could be a tripping hazard.
  • Lighting. Be sure there is sufficient lighting. As people get older, they require 2-3 times the amount of light they needed when they were younger. Add the confusion associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and you can understand how important it is to have enough light. However, too much light, especially when it causes glare, can be distracting and irritating.
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