Safety: Room by Room
Alzheimer's Research Center, San Diego CA
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Safety-checking the home begins with a checklist and an increased attention to prevention. The home is a personal and precious environment, but it is important, however, to keep and eye towards prevention and re-evaluate home safety periodically as the AD patients behavior and abilities change.
Caregivers can make adaptations that modify and simplify without severely disrupting the home. As you safety check your home, you may want to consider setting aside a special area for yourself, a space that is off-limits to anyone else and arranged exactly as you would like it.
We all need quiet private time, and as caregivers, this becomes especially crucial. What you need to find is a balance, or compromise that is comfortable for both you and your loved one.
Keep in mind you can purchase most of these products or gadgets necessary for home safety at stores carrying hardware, electronics, medical supplies, and childrens item's.
THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE
1. Have emergency numbers and home address displayed near all phones.
2. Consider a phone answering machine when the caregiver is unable to answer calls. The AD patient is often unable to take messages or may be the target for telephone exploitation by solicitors. When the answering machine is on, consider turning down the phone bell to avoid disruptive ringing.
3. Provide smoke alarms near all bedrooms, check functioning and batteries frequently.
4. Avoid the use of flammable and volatile compounds near gas water heaters. These should not be be in an area where the gas pilot light is used.
5. Avoid the use of extension cords if possible by placing lamps and appliances close to electrical outlets. Extension cords may be tacked to the baseboards of a room to avoid tripping. Unused outlets should be covered with childproof plugs.
6. Floor heating vents, radiators and other heating devices may be very hot to the touch. Red tape around the floor vents may deter the AD person from standing on or touching the grid.
7. All rooms need adequate lighting.
8. Stairways should have at least one handrail which extends beyond the first and last steps. Light switches should be placed at the top and bottom of stairs. Optimally, stairways are carpeted or have safety grip strips.
9. Keep all medications [prescription and over the counter] locked up. Each bottle of prescription medicine needs to be clearly labeled with the patients name, name of drug, drug strength, dosage frequency and expiration date. Do not accept a label with "as directed" typed on it. Child resistant caps are also available if needed.
10. Keep all alcohol secured in a locked cabinet or out of access to the AD patient. Alcohol consumption can increase confusion.
11. If smoking is permitted at all, monitor while the AD patient is smoking. Remove matches, and ash trays. Often by being out of sight, the patient may forget the desire to smoke.
12. Keep plastic bags out of sight. The AD person may choke or suffocate.
13. Clutter can create confusion and danger. Dispose of newspapers and magazines regularly. Keep all walk ways free of clutter and furniture.
14. Remove all guns and weapons from the home, or safety proof them by removing ammunition, firing pins, and installing safety locks devices.
15. Keep all power tools and machinery locked in the garage, workroom or basement.
16. Eliminate all poisonous plants from the house. Check with local nurseries or poison centers for a list of poisonous plants.
17. Keep fish tanks out of the AD patient's reach. The combination of glass, water, electrical pumps and potentially poisonous aquatic life can be harmful to the curious AD patient.
OUTSIDE APPROACHES TO THE HOME:
1. Keep stairs sturdy and textured, to prevent falls in wet or icy weather.
2. Use bright or reflective tape to mark the edge of stairs.
3. Consider a ramp with handrails into the home rather than stairs.
4. In the patio area, remove the fuel source and fire starters from the grill when not in use, and supervise use when the AD patient is present.
5. Make sure outside lighting is adequate. Light sensors that turn on the light automatically as you approach the home are available and may be very useful. These also may be used in other parts of the house.
6. Keep bushes and foliage pruned well away from the walkways and doorways.
7. Consider a "No Solicitation" sign for the front door.
1. Remove all scatter rugs and throw rugs.
2. Place textured strips or non-skid wax on hardwood floors to prevent falling.
1. Utilize child-proof door latches on the cabinets and drawers designated for breakable or dangerous items. Lock away all household cleaning products, matches, sharp knives scissors, blades, small appliances and valued china.
2. If prescription/nonprescription drugs are kept in the kitchen, they need to be kept in a locked cabinet.
3. Remove scatter rugs and foam pads from the floor.
4. Remove knobs from the stove or install an automatic shut-off switch.
5. Do not use or store flammable liquids in the kitchen. Keep them locked away in the garage or in an outside storage shed.
6. Eliminate or secure the family "junk drawer". AD patients may eat small items such as matches, hardware, erasers, plastics etc.
7. Eliminate non-edible items that appear to be edible such as artificial fruits and vegetables or food shaped kitchen magnets.
8. Place a drain trap in the kitchen sink to catch anything that may otherwise become lost, or clog the plumbing.
9. Consider dismantling the garbage disposal. AD patients may place objects or their hands in the disposal.
1. Use a night light.
2. Use an intercom device [often used for infants] to alert the caregiver to any noises indicating falls or need for help. This is also an effective device for the bathroom.
3. Remove all scatter rugs.
4. Remove portable space heaters in the patient sleeps alone. If portable fans are used, be sure that objects cannot be placed in to the blades.
5. Be cautious when using electric mattress pads, electric blankets, or heating pads, all of which may cause burns. Keep controls out of the AD patients reach.
6. Move the bed against the wall for increased security, or place mattress on the floor.
1. Do not leave a severely impaired person in the bathroom alone.
2. Remove the lock from the door to prevent the AD person from getting locked in the room.
3. Place non-skid adhesive strips, decals or mats in the tub and shower. If the bathroom is uncarpeted, consider placing these strips next to the tub, toilet and sink.
4. Use an extended toilet seat with hand rails, or place grab rails at the side of the toilet.
5. Consider washable wall to wall bathroom carpeting to prevent slipping on wet floors.
6. Install grab rails in the tub/shower area. A grab bar in contrasting color to the wall is easier to see.
7. Use foam rubber faucet cover in the tub to prevent serious injury should the AD person fall.
8. Use plastic shower stools and a hand held shower head to make bathing easier.
9. Adjust the water heater to 120 degrees to prevent scalding tap water.
10. The shower, tub and sink can each have a single faucet that mixes hot and cold water to avoid burns.
11. Place drain traps in sinks to catch small items that may be lost or flushed down the toilet.
12. Store medication in a locked cabinet or drawer. Check medication dates and eliminate out of date medications
13. Remove cleaning products from under the sink or lock them up.
14. Use a night light.
15. Remove small electrical appliances from the bathroom. Cover electrical outlets. If men use electrical shavers, have them use a mirror outside of the bathroom to avoid water contact.
1. Clear all walk areas of electrical cords.
2. Remove scatter rugs. Repair or replace torn carpet.
3. Place decals at the AD person's eye level on sliding glass doors, picture windows, or furniture with large glass panels to identify the glass pane.
4. Do not leave the AD person alone with an open fireplace, or consider alternative heating source. Remove matches and cigarette lighters.
5. Keep the control box for cable TV or stereo systems out of sight.
1. Keep the door to the laundry room locked if possible.
2. Keep all laundry products in a locked cabinet.
3. Remove large knobs from the washer and dryer if the AD person tampers with the machinery.
4. Keep the doors and lids to the washer and dryer closed and latched to prevent objects from being placed in the machines.
(c) copyright 1995
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