A former neighbor with Alzheimer’s Disease who lived on his family farm wandered from home and was missing for twenty-four hours. Fortunately, he was found alive on his property but often these stories end tragically. There are many safety concerns when caring for a loved-one suffering with dementia. In the latter stages of the disease dementia patients can’t be left alone. If they are living at home here are some suggestions to aid the care-giver.
• Bed and chair alarms are available for home use. When the patient stands the alarm sounds. I prefer the type where the receiver can be moved by the caregiver. For instance, during the day I place the alarm in a central part of the house but in the evening, I put it in my bedroom.
• The Wi-Fi cameras mentioned previously work well, or you can use baby monitors to keep track of our them.
• Lock all exterior doors. Some dementia patients can still unlock a door knob or deadbolt, so an extra step is needed. You can install a double-keyed deadbolt which requires a key to unlock from the inside and outside. I warn you though, this is a potential hazard in case of a fire as it may delay your exit. If a double-keyed deadbolt is necessary, keep a key hidden nearby so, you can find it quickly while exiting a burning house. It may fit on the wood casing above the door or under a rug placed in front of the door.
• You may prefer to install a door alarm rather than to lock your exterior door. That is a good option so long as it wakes you up at night in the event your loved-one wanders. Many dementia patients have damaged circadian clocks in their brain and are quite active at night.
• Install locks on interior doors to prevent entering an area with potential hazards such as a basement.
• Lock up all medicine and cleaning supplies which could be ingested. Laundry pods look like candy and are especially toxic.
• Put away artificial fruit and food shaped refrigerator magnets. A dementia patient may confuse them for real food.
• Inform neighbors of your situation and ask them to notify you if they see your loved-one leave the house.
• Push their bed against the wall and use a bed assist rail on the other side to prevent rolling out of bed.
• Take away cigarettes. If once a smoker, they probably have forgotten it by now; but if not, only allow it when someone is available to supervise. Don’t allow them to have matches or lighter.
• Contact your police department to inform them the disease has progressed to a more serious level, and ask what programs are available. I mentioned human scent jars previously which are great if the police have access to a blood-hound for tracking.
Though blood-hounds may track a person by smelling their clothing, laundry detergent can interfere with the odor. Scent jars provide an ABD medical pad which is rubbed on the patient and then placed in the jar. The scent is good for about two years. You can make your own scent jar by purchasing an ABD pad from a drug store, rub it in the armpit, then place it in a clean and rinsed jar. Keep the jar in the back of the refrigerator. Of course, this is only useful if there is a trained blood-hound available for tracking.
• Get some assistance. It is impossible for you to watch a person twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week. Exhaustion will cause you to be less attentive and a less caring caregiver.
• Look around your home to find possible hazards. Each home and each dementia patient are different.
Ask God to help you and your mentally impaired loved-one. Take comfort in these words from Isaiah 46:4 NIV.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and will carry you;
I will sustain you and will rescue you.
© Ronald Milburn 2018