Making Home Safe For a Parent With Dementia
Creating a safe place is a key part of dementia care. Take a look around your mom or dad’s living space with their unique challenges in mind. Be sure to consider the following:
- Lighting. Put night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and stairwells to prevent falls during nighttime wandering or trips to the bathroom
- Emergency numbers. Keep emergency numbers and information displayed in a clear, prominent place at home so your parent can easily find it if needed
- Tripping hazards. Loose area rugs, electrical cords, or toys on the floor pose serious risks to seniors whose eyesight and balance may be fading
- Kitchen hazards. Watch for changes in your parent’s dexterity or a tendency to do things like forgetting to turn off the stove. Think about storing knives and small appliances out of sight or in a locked cabinet, or installing safety covers on oven and range controls
- Home security. Some dementia sufferers get most disoriented or confused in the evening, a phenomenon known as “sundowning.” If your parent is at risk of getting lost, installing a keypad lock on exterior doors is wise
Making Home Comfortable for a Parent With Dementia
In addition to safety, you should expect your parents’ comfort needs to change as well. As dementia or Alzheimer’s disease progresses, these simple steps help provide stability and security to a confused senior.
- Create a routine. Even if you’ve never known your parent to live by a schedule before, creating one now will help. Fixed meal times and a consistent routine help create a sense of security during times of confusion or disorientation
- Limit options. Dementia can make choices a stressful chore. To help, try to limit the number of options you offer
- Be patient. It’s scary watching your parent struggle with tasks they used to do easily. It might feel that they should be able to do simple things as quickly and easily as ever but dementia slows them down. Be patient and give your parent and yourself extra time with the little things
Coping With Dementia In a Parent
Self-care is a critical skill for home caregivers.Caregiver burnout is real and puts both you and your parent at risk from emotional withdrawal and suffering. However, you can prevent caregiver burnout; plan ahead to reduce the stress and burden that caregiving creates.
- Keep up with hobbies. Keeping up with hobbies and activities reduces stress and anxiety. Make time to pursue the activities that help you unwind.
- Reduce commitments elsewhere. Think about what you really do and don’t need to do. Taking a break frees up mental space and energy that you can use for your parent.
- Use respite care. When it’s all feeling like too much or you need to travel or just take a few days to yourself, respite care is a key resource. Respite dementia care provides a safe place for your loved one while you get what you need to be at your best for them.
Have a Plan for the Future
Unfortunately, most dementias are progressive and get worse with time. While we believe it’s good for every senior to stay home with their family as long as they can, there often comes a time when home is no longer the safest choice. Living at home after that time can put seniors with dementia at risk of serious health complications.
It’s best to make a plan about dementia care in advance, while your parent can still give input about their wishes and desires. Know your own limits and decide how you’ll know that it’s time to begin a transition to full-time, skilled dementia care.
By planning for the future now, you can help protect your parent from the rushed, disorienting transitions that happen when families wait until the last minute. Change is especially hard for dementia patients. Respite visits and short-term stays leading up to an eventual move will soften the shock not only for them but for you.