Experts recommend four important safety guidelines for people that are taking care of a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
According to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association, almost 6 million U.S. citizens have Alzheimer’s disease, and roughly 16.1 million U.S. citizens are providing unpaid care for Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related disease patients.
Dr. Andrew Duxbury, a geriatrician at the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said that “when approaching dementia families, I follow the safe and sane rule."
"Everything we do needs to make the patient safe and the family sane. In terms of safety, it boils down into the big four: meals, wheels, bills and pills," he added in a university news release.
When it comes to meal preparation, caregivers should consider if the person they are caring for can prepare their own meal, and make sure that they’re provided with a healthy and adequate amount of food, as well as being conscious about the necessity of food, according to Duxbury. "If any link in that chain breaks, the person may not eat," he concluded.
As far as kitchen safety is concerned, the "biggest issue is leaving things on the stove and forgetting to turn the oven off; but if cooking is part of someone's routine, let them cook on their own while monitoring what they are doing from another room," he noted.
"Think about it this way: Would you let your 12-year-old make dinner? You may, but you would definitely be in the next room listening for anything that could go wrong," Duxbury added.
Some other advice that Duxbury gives are:
- Planning meal plans that need minimal preparation, or, at least, ones that can be prepared in the microwave
- Placing scissors and knives away from countertops and drawers
- Labeling kitchen cabinets
- Clearly marking the garbage disposal switch in order to prevent accidental activation.
Duxbury pointed out that patients that have late-stage dementia should not be allowed to prepare their own meals in the oven or on the stove.
As far as going out, the inability of driving and the subsequent loss of independence can have a negative effect on Alzheimer’s patients.
"A lot of times, an older man may just want to have the car keys, feel them in his pocket and see the car in the driveway," he said. "You can let him have the keys, just not the key to the actual car. Give him the keys to a different car or remove the car key from his set of keys. This way, he has the keys, hears them jingle in his pocket and sees his car, but can't go anywhere."
When a person is no longer able to drive, his or her caregivers should make sure their loved one has enough money to pay their bills and get taken advantage of or scammed.
A big percentage of seniors are on many different medications, and this can get problematic with dementia patients as they often forget to take their medication, or in some cases, take medications in a combination that can lead to some rather harmful side effects. These patients’ caregivers need to make sure their loved one is taking their medication in a safe and regular manner, including regular visits to their medical check-ups. The other health issues of the patient should not be omitted as well.
In order to make this happen, a pillbox with a weekly medication amount should be prepared, sorted by on daily basis. There are some pillboxes with timers and locks that prevent accidental consumption.
"Families need to remember that a person with dementia does not live in the same reality that we live in," Duxbury said. "They live in a reality of their brain's dementia. These individuals may have completely different perceptions of the world around them and what it means. … We have to accept their reality for what it is."
If you want to find out more about how to provide a better care for dementia patients, read the U.S. National Institute on Aging’s article on Alzheimer’s caregiving.
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.