Eventually, most of our elder loved ones will get to a point at which they can no longer live independently. In many cases, we caregivers will offer to take that loved one into our home. The transition can be difficult emotionally, even before you consider what it’s like to live with someone who is in the early stages of cognitive decline. But, there are some steps you can take to help keep your elder loved one safe without turning your home into a prison.
- Door Alarms. Wandering is the #1 fear of many caregivers. The thought of a loved one walking off and ending up in a dangerous situation keeps many people up at night. But something as simple as a door alarm on an exterior door – paired with a properly installed chain or slide lock – can do wonders for preventing wandering incidents. Whatever you select, do not put a lock on an exit door which the care recipient cannot open. That is a massive hazard and may even violate fire codes in many areas.
- Interior door locks. The dangers inside the home are often as bad as that outside. Garages, basements, and workshops can all contain a variety of hazards for someone in the early stages of cognitive impairment. Putting a lock on those sorts of rooms – either a standard key lock, a digital passcode lock, or a “confounding” lock – can help keep your loved one out of danger. Additionally, as some seniors age, they begin to lose some respect for social norms. Which is to say, they get nosy and intrusive, including not respecting others’ personal time and belongings. A robust lock on the bedroom, while you are out, can help stave off some of the worst intrusions.
- Stove Guardian. Carelessness and lack-of-focus can seem harmless, but it can also manifest in dangerous ways. These include leaving the burner on the stove or cooktop after they leave the room. There are a variety of devices available now which will either turn the oven off if a movement has not been detected, or if the fire alarm goes off.
- Medication reminder. Failure to take medicine properly – either under- or over-dosing – can lead to tragic consequences. But, these situations can be prevented with some fairly basic items. A sturdy, 2-week capacity pill dispenser, a whiteboard with spaces to check off when a dose is taken, and a reminder clock like our Reminder Rosie can work in conjunction to help keep your loved on schedule with their medications.
- Grab bars & rails. Pretty much anytime your elder loved one has to get up from a sitting or reclining position, there is the danger of a fall. They can’t all be avoided, but the vast majority can be prevented with properly sited & installed grab bars or rails. There are obvious places for them – in the shower, next to the toilet, near the bed – but there are less obvious danger points, too. Is there a big step at the front door? That’s a frequent fall hazard. A solid grab bar just inside the door can be used going both ways and may save a lot of pain. The caregiver should spend a day going about their routine and explicitly thinking about where and how they get up from a seated position if there isn’t already something solid to grab onto, considering having a grab bar installed at that site.
Caring for an elder loved one can seem overwhelming, but a little bit of planning, preparation, and prevention can go a long way towards making everyone in the home safer and happier.