These Tools Can Help Caregivers Keep Loved Ones With Dementia Safe
In my previous column, we discussed a simple list of tools that every caregiver should have in their proverbial tool belt. The original list was pretty basic, but the following items are essential for keeping your loved one with dementia safe.
An Alzheimer’s News Today reader responded to “Caregivers Need an Arsenal of Tools for Loved Ones With Dementia,” my previous column. Richard was recently reported to the Adult Protection Unit in the state where he lives because his wife wandered away from home and got lost. We know this sometimes happens, despite our best efforts.
You can read Richard’s full comment below my column, but his experience left him with the task of installing door locks that his wife can’t unlock. Richard chose to install combination locks, which he knows will disappoint his wife, who is still grappling with the loss of freedom incurred because of dementia. Sadly, it’s a choice many of us must make to keep our loved ones safe.
There are multiple locks on the market that a person with cognitive issues can’t manipulate, but a caregiver can unlock them. It goes without saying, but I will anyway: Never lock a person inside a house, apartment, or room alone.
A door alarm helps to keep your loved one safe in the house. Installing a simple alarm system to alert caregivers when the door opens may be sufficient, without having to add a special lock. However, you can certainly install both as an extra safety measure. The alarm doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Purchase an alarm and install on doors leading outside. When the door is cracked open, the connection on the device is broken, and the alarm sounds. The alarm is battery-operated, so wiring is unnecessary, and installment is easy.
The bathtub/shower can be a hazard for a strong, healthy person, not to mention someone with limited mobility. Falling in the bathroom was found to be twice as likely to cause injuries, compared with falls in the living room, and elders have a higher risk of falling, an article published in Injury Epidemiology reported. The same study indicated the need for bathroom safety modifications, including grab bars.
Install grab bars on shower walls to assist with climbing in and out of a slippery tub. Special grab bars can attach to the sides of tubs, too, and don’t need special installation. These are placed on the tub wall and have grips on both ends that can be tightened by hand and squeezed together to secure the bar in place.
I’m not a big fan of suction shower bars, preferring to have shower bars professionally installed in the shower wall. Proper installation ensures the bar won’t move, which is a concern with suction bars. If professional installation is cost-prohibitive or impossible, opt for suction shower bars. Also, when modifying the bathroom to prevent falls, don’t forget to add traction to the shower or bath floors.
Power lift recliner
Chairs that help to raise your loved one to a standing or nearly standing position are great. Getting out of a chair is often problematic. A power lift chair is electric, of course, and has an easy-to-use control that allows the caregiver or the person sitting in the chair to slowly raise or lower it.
My mother didn’t need a hospital bed until the last week of her life, but it’s important that caregivers know they’re available for home use. A hospital bed is helpful for bedside care, as you can raise and lower it. It also has rails to prevent a loved one from tumbling out of bed or wandering. You can purchase or rent a hospital bed for home care that is electric, semi-electric, or manual. In many cases, Medicare will cover the cost.
It’s impossible to have eyes and ears on your loved one at all times, especially during late-night hours. Place a baby monitor in an inconspicuous place inside their bedroom and the receiver on your bedside table. Turn up the volume to hear when they stir in the middle of the night or if you are called. It may seem an invasion of privacy, but remember, it’s a measure that will keep your loved one safe. If privacy is an issue, avoid purchasing a video monitor.
The primary purpose of caregiving is to keep our loved ones safe and, if possible, happy. These are only a few of the tools available to help with that.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.