Caregivers for seniors can find help and hope at Sowega Council on Aging.

A Safe and Supportive Environment for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

If you’re caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be overwhelming. You want to make sure they are safe and feel comforted and loved, but it can be hard to know how to do that. This article goes over some helpful tips for creating a safe and supportive environment for seniors with Alzheimer’s.

Creating a Safe Physical Environment 

Someone with dementia hurting or injuring themselves is a big concern, so it’s important to do a assessment of their physical environment for any safety risks. These can include: 

  • Slippery floors, cluttered areas, loose carpets or rugs, or low light areas that may increase the risk of falls. 
  • Locks, floors, doors, windows, stairs, bathrooms, and balconies that may need modifying. 
  • Removing dangerous chemicals, laundry pods, mothballs, bleach, and other dangerous items they could ingest. 
  • Childproof drawers and cabinets containing dangerous items like medicine, knives, power tools, and even electric appliances. 
  • Keep car keys inaccessible. 
  • Remove or secure firearms or other weapons. 
  • Utilize assistive technology or monitoring devices if possible. 
  • Evaluate the pantry and fridge to weed out moldy or expired foods your loved one could eat. 

And while it’s important to make sure your loved one is safe, it’s also important to make sure they feel as at home as possible. If they’re in their own home, try to keep it as close it’s original state as safety permits. Sudden changes can be startling to people with dementia, and it can cause them to more agitated and confused. If they are not able to be in their own home, bring familiar items along like pictures, artwork, and pieces of furniture wherever possible. Use the same bedspread on their bed or bring their favorite armchair to make it feel familiar to them. 

How to Support Memory 

Memory loss is the symptom that comes to all of our minds when we think of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and it’s a very scary one, both for you and your loved one. You want to support their memory as much as possible, and there are lots of different ways you can do that. Helping keep their physical environment familiar is a big one, but there are other ways as well. For example, if your loved one struggles with remembering certain tasks, write them on a big whiteboard in a central location to help them remember or put reminders around the house. Large, easy to read clocks and calendars can also help them connect to the present. Other supportive memory aids can include: 

  • Medication reminders 
  • Phone reminders, alarms, and audio messages 
  • Item finders (these can attach to things like keys with an alarm when you can’t find them) 
  • Monitoring systems in case your loved one is lost 

Supporting Your Loved One Emotionally and Mentally 

Suddenly not being able to remember the person sitting in front of you or what year it is has to be incredibly disorienting and scary. No wonder many people with dementia struggle with agitation and anger! In addition to making a safe physical environment and supporting memory, there are also things you can do to support your loved one emotionally and mentally. These include: 

  • Keep a routine as much as possible. 
  • Help with to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar. 
  • Allow your loved one as much independence as is safe and possible. 
  • Be gentle and respectful. 
  • Tell your loved one what’s happening, what you’re doing, etc. 
  • Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place, and give them enough time to eat. 
  • Don’t point out their inability to remember. Just remind them calmly and respectfully. 
  • Change the subject or distract them with an item or activity if they are becoming agitated about something. 
  • Talk to them about yourself, other family members, or events with an assistive aid like a photo album or home videos.