DANGER: Staying Safe At Home

Kathi Sargent, Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, gives an in-depth answer on a quite common question within the Alzheimer’s community:

Question: My grandfather has just been diagnosed with dementia and I worry about him being at home alone. Do you have any recommendations for home safety?

Answer: When caring for someone with dementia at home, safety is an extremely important concern. People living with dementia can remain in their homes safely for a longer period of time if certain safety issues are addressed. 

Accommodate for visual changes

  • Use contrasting colors on walls, trim and floors to help the person anticipate staircases and room entrances. This technique is also effective in the bathroom, where a white toilet and sink may be hard to see against a white floor and wall.
  • Changes in levels of light can be disorienting. Try to maintain consistency in lighting the home and keep it well-lit.
  • Add extra lighting in entries, area between rooms, stairways and bathrooms
  • Diffuse glare by removing mirrors and glass top furniture
  • Cover windows with blinds, shades or sheer drapes as needed to control and diffuse light.
  • Use night lights

Avoid injury during daily activities

  • Lower the temperature of tap water and monitor food temperatures if possible, to prevent accidental burns
  • Install walk-in showers, grab bars and non-skid decals on slippery surfaces
  • Provide the appropriate level of support to the person when taking prescription and over-the-counter medications

Beware of hazardous objects and substances.

  • Lock up hazardous materials that could be ingested
  • Limit the use of mixers, grills, microwaves, knives and lawnmowers.
  • Remove guns and ammunition from the home
  • Move items that might cause a person to trip such as unsecured throw rugs, floor lamps and coffee tables to create unrestricted areas for movement
  • Check the refrigerator and discard expired food

Prepare for emergencies

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers and addresses by every phone
  • Regularly check fire extinguishers and smoke alarms
  • Enroll the individual in the Medic Alert/Safe Return program
Kathi Sargent is the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Central and North Florida Chapter. She is responsible for the Association’s Helpline, care consultation and physician outreach programs. She has been with the Association for more than 12 years. Kathi has 40 years of experience working in geriatrics, including 15 years with the Winter Park Health Foundation managing the Lifeline Program. Her passion is providing support, education, and solutions to people experiencing the disease, their caregivers and families. Kathi lives in Orlando. She enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family. You can ask Kathi a question by calling our Helpline at 800-272-3900 or by emailing her at infocnfl@alz.org.