Discover steps for preparing your home for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Most families want to keep their loved one in the familiar surroundings of home for as long as possible. Creating a safe environment for your loved one is key for them remaining at home.

When caring for a person with memory issues, it is important to avoid accidents, minimize injuries and remove triggers that could cause agitation or challenging behaviors.

When adjusting the home, there will be unique behaviors or characteristics that require continual reassessment. Be sure to walk through the home as the disease progresses to monitor it for safety issues that may arise.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, it becomes more difficult for people with the disease to process environmental information.

The simpler things are in the home, the fewer environmental inputs there are to interpret and distract the person.

Create walking paths

Paths should be as direct as possible, with few or no obstacles. Remove or secure rugs. Open spaces make both access and decision-making easier.

Utilize labels

Labeling provides visual cues to help your loved one maintain independence within the home. It is important to use symbols and/or the language the person can relate to at their current level of function, such as pictures of utensils on a drawer or plates and cups on a cabinet.

Create a secured zone

This room should be secured and off limits to your loved one. This zone includes any places, objects or features that may be potentially dangerous. Limit access to locations that contain any cleaning supplies, tools or hazardous materials like the garage or certain closets.

Lighting

Reducing shadows and dark areas in the home can help eliminate sights that may be misinterpreted or trigger confusion.

Ways to Safeguard Your Home 

Bathrooms

This room can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. Possible dangers include: slips and falls, burns, poisoning, cuts, electrocution and drowning.

  • Add shelving units behind the toilet to display everyday items and help eliminate confusion
  • Safety-proof or remove from sight wall hooks, glass shelves, throw rugs, mouthwash, laxatives, sleeping aids, cough syrup and other medications (prescription and over the counter)
  • Remove all electrical appliances that can be dropped in water
  • Identify or mark hot and cold faucets with large letters
  • Install firmly mounted grab bars along the wall of the bath/ shower and toilet, use shower seats and add nonslip decals to the shower/tub floor
  • Make the room warmer — install a heating lamp in the ceiling with a timer (space heaters are never advised). Many people with dementia stop using the bathroom because it seems too cold without being able to verbalize this discomfort

Doors & Windows

Many people with dementia can wander off so it’s important to take the necessary precautions before your loved one exhibits this behavior to ensure their maximum safety.

  • Install safety handles and deadbolt locks above 
their eye level on all
doors that lead outside
  • Install decals at the person’s eye level to prevent them from walking into a glass door
  • Install devices on your windows and sliding glass doors that will limit how far they can be opened
  • Reduce glare or reflections from windows
  • Make safe zone doors easy to use

Kitchen

Reduce items on shelves and use labels on cabinets and drawers. Eventually, the kitchen may become off limits as the disease progresses.

  • Install a childproof lock on the oven
  • Biweekly, check
and remove all spoiled food from the refrigerator and check expiration dates on all products
  • Use the fuse box or install timers to control electrical outlets for stoves, coffeemakers, microwave and other appliances

Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, DCP, QDCS, EICS is an expert in Alzheimer’s and related dementias care. She has a master’s degree of Applied Gerontology and is a Certified Alzheimer’s Educator, Dementia Care Practitioner, Qualified Dementia Care Specialist, and Excellence in Care Specialist with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. She is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues.