Dementia Safety fundamentals
Looking after an older relative with dementia can be a bit like caring for young children, only ones who are a lot more mobile and able to get into more trouble if you don’t pay attention to a number of important safety issues.
As with children, you might find yourself wishing for certain superpowers, such as having eyes in the back of your head and the ability to see through doors and walls. Coping with adults who have dementia may have you taking on roles you never imagined you would have to. Our parents have always been the strong ones that we looked to for help and advice. It can be a very difficult transition to move from the dependent child to the mature adult as your parent becomes more like a dependent child.
Because they are adults, they have a range of responsibility and care issues that go beyond what you usually have to do for a child, such a bathe, dress, feed them, and deal with toileting issues. These will be needed eventually once their dementia progresses. They are hard enough to do with children, and even more challenging when dealing with a large adult.
But you might also need to take care of bills, home maintenance and upkeep, and safety within the home. For example, if your loved one with dementia has mobility issues like needing a walker or cane, make sure the house is neat and tidy and that they have adaptive aids to assist them. These light include ramps, stair climbers, handles in the bathroom near the toilet and shower/tub, and so on.
Another issue is dealing with medications. You should maintain an up-to-date list of everything they are taking, and why. Bring it to each doctor’s appointment. Include all vitamins, over-the-counter products, and herbal supplements they might use regularly, because some can cause serious interactions with each other.
A pill carrier can help them stay safe and not miss doses or accidentally overdose in relation to the medications that are essential and need to be taken regularly. It is far easier to set the pills out for a week from each of the bottles than to try to remember what you took from which bottle. Set an alarm or electronic notification on a computer or text messaging service so the medicine can be taken on time. If you are not sure whether they have taken it, just check the compartment for that dose.
Benefits and Health Insurance
Once you take care of drug safety, it is time to familiarize yourself with their social security benefits, health insurance, Medicare and/or Medicaid so you can understand what their income is and how much their medicines cost. Some people decide to take out a supplementary benefit policy for their medications, for instance, to help cover the cost of high-priced drugs. Others might have long-term care policies in place. In this way you will know all your options in relation to being cared for at home versus going to an residential assisted living home, nursing home, or eventually a hospice.
As the dementia progresses, they might lose their keys, crash the car, wander out of the house, leave the gas on, or leave the tub running and flood the house. All of these incidents and more mean closer and closer supervision. If you are not living with the loved one, you will have to check on them regularly plus organize round-the-clock care.
Putting safety first is not easy, but it can help your loved one maintain their independence a lot longer.