When you are dealing with a family member with advanced Alzheimer’s, you need to danger proof your home. You will need to look at everything in your home from a different viewpoint. For family members with very advanced Alzheimer’s, think about how you would be safetyproof your home for a young child. Start with your bathrooms. Look at the shelves in your medicine cabinet. Do they contain dangerous medications and unsafe razors? You will need a locked cabinet or you may need to put your unsafe items in a bathroom inaccessible to your family member who has advanced Alzheimer’s. Even people who suffer from less severe Alzheimer’s will need some safety precautions, such as bars on the tub for them to help themselves in and out and safety faucets that prevent them from getting scalded.
Next, move onto all areas in your home that have telephones. Beside each phone, make sure you have the number for emergency services, a contact number for a neighbor, any important numbers, and your own address. Clearly identify what each piece of information means. For example, don’t just write the name of a child or sibling and the number. Label them as “your daughter Nancy’s phone number” or “your home address.” This will help your family member with Alzheimer’s take care of him or herself in case of an emergency, or if something happens to you. When you are not home, try to have an answering machine take calls. Even getting a call from the vet’s office reminding her that her cat is due for shots can be very upsetting for a person with advanced Alzheimer’s. You can even shut off the ringer on phones so that your family member will not hear the calls and answer them. (This also keeps less than reputable telephone solicitors from taking advantage of Alzheimer’s patients’ confusion and pressuring them to buy items or accept services they don’t need.)
As you look around your home, check to be sure you have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers on all floors, and that alarms are located right outside of bedroom doors. This will quickly alert you to any fires. However, the best way to deal with fire is to prevent it. Make sure you don’t leave matches and lighters lying around if someone in the family smokes and child proof your stove so that the Alzheimer’s victim does not light a burner and leave it on. Sadly, the victim will often forget how to turn something on or off, despite the fact that he or she has been doing it for 40 or more years. This is not a danger if the television set is left on, but forgetting to turn off a stove can have very different consequences.
Continue through the house, looking at each item in it as a potential safety hazard. Some things to be especially aware of are empty electrical sockets, long extension cords, cables and phone wires, piles of clutter, sharp kitchen implements, alcohol, and tools. If you wouldn’t leave something out with a small child around, avoid leaving it near a person with advanced Alzheimer’s. For instance, keep plastic bags out of reach, since an adult with Alzheimer’s could suffocate just as easily as a toddler.
Finally, have a friend or neighbor with a toddler go through the house and look at it with fresh eyes. He or she may see dangers that did not occur to you, such as poisonous houseplants or household cleaners.