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Caring for Dementia: Safety Checklists

A person with dementia is more at risk for accidents, falls, burns, poisoning, and other safety issues. He or she may also wander outside the home and get lost. And at some point, driving may no longer be safe for your loved one. But you can help prevent problems like these with some planning and preparation.

Create a Safe Foundation at Home

  • Tell your loved one’s neighbors that he or she has dementia.

  • Ask who might be able to help in a crisis. Give them a list of phone numbers of family members, caregivers, and medical services.

  • Have your loved one wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a medical alert wallet card.

  • Keep emergency phone numbers and the home’s address near all phones.

  • Prepare for a fire, flood, hurricane, or other disaster, just in case. Make sure your loved one always has a week’s supply of food, water, medications, and medical supplies.

Stop Accidental Poisoning

  • Remove or lock up medications, alcohol, cleaning products, detergents, paint thinner, gasoline, matches, and poisonous plants.

  • Hide things such as shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, and soap. Some people with dementia may confuse these for food.

  • Check the pantry and refrigerator for foods that have expired or gone bad.

  • Put a carbon monoxide detector in areas with gas appliances, such as an oven or water heater.

Prevent Falls

  • Put sturdy handrails wherever needed, such as in the bathroom.

  • Put a waterproof stool in the shower, and install a handheld shower.

  • Use nonskid rugs on uncarpeted surfaces, including bathroom and kitchen floors.

  • Get rid of clutter on the floor.

  • Put bells on small pets that the person may not see and trip over.

  • Tuck away electrical cords.

  • Put a gate across the stairs if needed.

  • Make sure the person wears slippers or shoes with good grip.

  • Make sure rooms are all well-lit. Use nightlights in bedrooms, hallways, and bathrooms.

Avoid Burns or Other Serious Injuries

  • Set the water heater to 120°F (48.8°C).

  • Put childproof latches on cabinets and guards on electrical outlets.

  • Put safety knobs and an automatic shut-off switch on the stove.

  • Label the hot and cold faucets.

  • Put a warning sign on any appliance that gets hot (toaster, oven, hair dryer, water heater) that reads, “Don’t touch! This is hot!”

  • Remove space heaters.

  • Put away electric blankets and heating pads. Put matches and cigarette lighters out of reach.

  • Don’t leave the person alone near a lit fireplace or candles.

  • Lock up or hide scissors, knives, power tools, guns, and other weapons.

  • Remove or hide plastic bags.

  • Remove or protect fish tanks.

  • Cover the pool, or put a fence and locked gate around it.

  • Remove gas tanks from grills.

  • Put smoke detectors in all rooms.

Manage Wandering Behaviors

  • Put locks or alarms on windows and doors if needed.

  • Put a sign that says “Stop” on any door that leads outside.

  • Have your loved one wear an ID bracelet with his or her name, address, and a phone number.

  • Tell neighbors what to do if they see your loved one wandering.

Avoid Driving Problems

  • Look for signs that he or she may need to stop driving, such as getting lost or ignoring traffic signs.

  • Talk with his or her health care provider.

  • Gently talk with your loved one about the safety issues.

  • Have the person tested by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

  • Find other methods of transport such as community services, friends, and family members.

  • If needed, take the car keys or even move the car where he or she can’t see it.

  • Swap the car keys for another set of keys, if your loved one is in the habit of carrying keys.

  • Don’t leave the person alone in a parked car.

Learn More

You can find more detailed information about making the home safer in the publication Home Safety for People with Alzheimer's Disease, from the National Institute on Aging.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/22/2014
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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