Useful tips for helping a loved one with dementia remain independent
Caring for a loved one with dementia that is living alone presents many challenges for us as caregivers. It is essential you put the necessary arrangements in place to ensure they are safe and supported. You shouldn’t let the bad days and little incidents deter you because if you know where to look for help and how to go about creating a safe environment, your life will be so much easier.
When people who have dementia live alone, their surroundings must be adapted to facilitate their changing needs. Here are some helpful tips and ideas for making surroundings suitable for your loved one:
Making the home safe
Perhaps the biggest concern when supporting a loved one with dementia is falls. Tripping hazards can be overlooked when preparing a safe house, but the more risk you can eliminate the better. Think about moving small items on the floor such as ottomans, side tables etc. to safer, more visible places. Consider replacing the door thresholds between rooms if they protrude and present a hazard. Rugs can also cause tripping, so you can either tape them down or remove them.
Getting in and out of a bed or chair is the cause of a lot of falls. Consider getting supportive furniture that will help your loved one to get around safely. An electric bed with a simple-to-use backrest button will allow your loved one to sit up before getting out of bed. A riser chair will tilt your loved one forward to support them whilst standing. Both will significantly reduce the risk of falling.
Decor and lighting
Contrast colours within the home to help your loved ones identify different items. Switches and sockets that aren’t the same color as the wall can easily be found. Also, furnishings that stand out from the rest of the decor are less likely to be tripped on.
Use lighting to your advantage. Good lighting will make objects more visible and help prevent falls. Using a night light will make your loved one feel more secure and also makes walking in the dark much safer.
Keep the house clean. Unnecessary clutter can cause confusion and frustration, or, at the worst, injuries. Whether this means family, friends or a paid cleaner, it’s important to create a clean and safe environment.
Keep potentially dangerous items out of harm’s way. It can be easy to confuse a cleaning spray bottle with a cooking spray bottle. Keeping them in very separate areas can prevent accidental misuse. Putting clear instructions next to cookers and kitchen appliances will minimise misuse and potential consequences.
Putting plans in place for emergencies
It is inevitable that at some stage your loved one will need emergency help. Keep a list of emergency contacts with telephone numbers next to the phone. Also, give trusted neighbours keys to the house so they can check on you or your loved on if something seems wrong.
You should also consider a telecare device that allows your loved one to alert you or care services if something is amiss. Sometimes your local council will provide you with this in the form of a wearable device along with home sensors that sense unusual movement, gas, smoke etc. Alternatively, you can purchase wearable alarms online. Find out more about wearable alarms.
Other than taking precautions and planning ahead, the next most important thing is to keep your loved one with dementia calm and happy. This can mean placing memoirs of loved ones and happy times around the house. Keep music and books they enjoy in an accessible place and make sure they have the care and love they need.
You could also take them out for trips to favourite places or dementia-friendly attractions. Your local area will also have a range of activities and support groups you can attend, such as the Memory Café and Singing for the Brain schemes.
Where to look for help
Sometimes you’ll need advice and expert support. Other times you might just want someone to share your cares with. Here are some helpful organisations and schemes that can help:
Alzheimer’s Society is a UK charity that campaigns for change, funds research supports people living with dementia. Make use of their services:
Dementia UK provides specialist dementia support for families, namely through their Admiral Nurse service.
I hope you found this guide helpful and prove the benefit of putting these tips into practice.