Life adjustments ensure safety for seniors with memory loss

Life adjustments ensure safety for seniors with memory loss

By Sarah Richard

Safety is one of our top priorities in life. Each day, we hop in a car full of safety features – seatbelts, airbags, backup cameras and more. We live in homes with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and circuit breakers. We shop in stores with security cameras, anti-slip carpeting and well-lit parking lots.

The safety of our loved ones is just as important, especially as those closest to us grow older. We want to make sure our parents, grandparents and others are safe, happy and cared for. As they age, we often find ourselves even more attentive to their safety.

Diminishing strength and flexibility cause safety concerns for many seniors, and those navigating memory loss face additional impacts to their safety, health and wellbeing. Examples include impacts on judgment, sense of time and place, behavior, physical ability and senses. As the disease progresses and symptoms worsen, safety hazards continue to mount.

Safety adjustments can easily be made in the home, though. Start with a home evaluation from a certified specialist, such as an occupational therapist, that focuses on areas where tools or hazardous objects are most likely to be found, like garages, workshops, kitchens and outside spaces. After an evaluation, the inspector will provide a list of recommendations that promote safety. Enhancing your loved one’s environment often includes the following:

  1. Lighting: Plug nightlights into entryways, hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that changes in levels of light can disorient seniors with dementia.
  2. Grab bars: Install safety handles in bathrooms near the toilet, shower and bathtub. Consider a renovation that includes a walk-in shower, which can help reduce the risk of falls.
  3. Locks: Install deadbolts or another type of advanced lock above or below eye level on all exterior doors. This helps prevent wandering.

Potential hazards are found throughout a home, and something that was not a hazard last year might pose a threat as health declines. Limit access to outdoor equipment, such as lawn mowers, weed trimmers and saws, to prevent injury. Secure large items and do not store heavy objects on high shelves. Motion cameras can even alert family members if a loved one has left the residence.

Also, consider safety outside of the home. For some seniors, memory loss might trigger a conversation about whether it’s time to sell a vehicle and leave the driving to others. The National Institute of Health states that seniors with dementia oftentimes do not realize that they are struggling with driving, but they are. Indicators that a senior should consider handing over the keys include new dents on the car, near accidents, confusing the gas and brake pedals, frequent traffic violations, speeding or driving too slowly. Bring a senior’s trusted physician into the conversation if possible.

With the right adjustments and a watchful eye, family members can ensure the safety of their loved ones as they navigate memory loss.

Sarah Richard, Executive Director, The PreserveAbout the author

Sarah Richard is executive director at The Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers.



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