13 Ways to Protect a Loved One Who’s Suffering from Dementia
The senior members of our family are vulnerable to diseases and illnesses that can change their life once and for all. One such disease is dementia. It is better described as a specific brain disorder that leads to changes in the behavior and a deterioration of one’s mental cognition.
Dementia cannot be treated or cured instantly. It requires time, effort, and patience. A person who is suffering from dementia will struggle to remember names, be mindful of their surroundings, and arrange their thoughts in a coherent and meaningful manner. It is without a doubt a terrible disease to suffer from, and one that clearly takes away the freedom of your elderly loved one.
As the disease progresses, it becomes more and more difficult for caregivers to communicate with the sufferers. This lack of communication, or the absence of communication, forces senior citizens to become agitated. If the agitation remains unaddressed, then the senior member of your family could be forced into self-destructive aggressive behavior.
The lack of communication does not only make life difficult for the sufferers of dementia. It makes the task of looking after your elderly loved one extremely challenging. If you are not aware of the needs and wants of your loved one, then it could prove to be practically impossible for you to make life more comfortable for them.
You wouldn’t really be able to figure out how to help them in difficult situations and how you need to talk to them in order to make them feel a little better about their lives. Under such circumstances, it is quite wise to resort to the service so of a professional caregiver. An experienced and expert caregiver will know exactly what to do bridge the communication gap between you and your loved one.
Even though professional caregivers do a fantastic job of making sure that your elderly loved ones are in a great condition, you should not hesitate to help out the caregivers by making your house safer for the person suffering from dementia.
Any person suffering from dementia requires special care, and part of providing that extra care involves protecting the individual from danger. If you are not sure of how to go about protecting your loved one, then here are thirteen tips that can help you out:
1) Reduce Background Noise to a Minimum
It was previously mentioned that the sufferers of dementia can become agitated quite easily. There are many reasons for that, but one of them involves the amount of noise in your house. People who suffer from dementia are very sensitive to background noise. When the background noise is increased, they start to feel uncomfortable and could develop nausea.
Often, dizziness takes over and impairs their health for a certain period of time. Sound bothers dementia patients because they are unable to focus and concentrate like ordinary people. In the presence of high background noise, it becomes even more difficult for dementia sufferers to recall memories and think clearly.
You don’t have to get your walls padded or turn your house into a soundproof studio. Just make sure that you reduce the use of noisy equipment and appliances. For instance, your loved one may be bothered by the sound coming from the television.
2) Install Child Proof Locks and Latches
This should be a top priority action. The inability to recognize their surroundings and recall memories forces elderly people with dementia to behave like an isolated individual in an unknown environment. Under such circumstances, they are tempted to leave the house and wander off outdoors. Such actions put them in a very dangerous position.
A dementia patient should never be left unattended. This is part of the reason why you have been advised to hire the services of a professional caregiver. However, you can’t afford to take risks even if you have appointed someone to watch over your loved one throughout the day.
The best way to prevent your loved ones from leaving the house (while they are in a confused state of mind) is to install child proof locks and latches. This will certainly restrict them from wandering off into unsafe areas.
3) Keep Keys Out of Their Sight
Most people make the assumption that dementia patients are unable to make intelligent decisions while they are in a state of confusion. This is not true at all. An elderly person suffering from dementia could quite easily use keys to escape the house. In other words, they are capable of making conscious decisions, regardless of how much their brain is affected by dementia.
Hence, you can’t take any chances by keeping your keys in the open. If they ask for the keys, then politely ask them if they would like to take a trip outside. Do not misbehave with them under any circumstances. They may have lost their ability to recall memories, but they are still receptive to emotional pain.
4) Fix Signs on Doors for Navigation
It may seem like a very silly idea to post signs on the doors of your own house, but this is something that you need to do to make life much easier for your elderly loved ones. People who suffer from dementia are often unable to perform basic, daily tasks simply because they can’t remember their way in and around the house.
Therefore, if you post signs on individual doors leading to the bathroom, the kitchen, and the bedroom, it will be a lot easier for them to navigate, especially when the professional caregiver isn’t around to guide them.
Signs on doors are absolutely mandatory if you have a large house where it is easy to get lost if you don’t know your way around. Remember, walking around in your house can be a similar experience to walking around in the house of a complete stranger, for your elderly loved one.
5) Use Stop Signs
If you can use signs on doors to help your loved one navigate the house better, then there is nothing wrong with placing stop signs on doors that lead to unsafe areas, such as the exterior or the basement stairs. A fall down the basement stairs or walk down the road in front of your house in the middle of the night could be disastrous for your loved one.
Even though dementia patients often lose the ability to recognize symbols, stop signs or warning signs can prove to be quite effective in helping them realize that they are about to enter a place that is not safe for them.
6) Don’t Introduce New Items Unless Absolutely Necessary
The sight of familiar objects or items soothes the mind of a person who is suffering from dementia. Once an old item is replaced by a new one, the dementia patient finds it difficult to cope with the change and process the alteration in their mind.
In many cases, the introduction of a foreign object in a familiar setting can emotionally disturb a dementia sufferer. It makes them feel uncomfortable and increases their chances of becoming agitated. Since they are constantly struggling to recall memories, the sight of a new object puts intensifies their anxiety, confusion, and apprehensions.
7) Keep the House Organized
The mind of a dementia patient is at ease when the body is in organized surroundings. Disorder unsettles their mind and makes them even more anxious than before. One of the main reasons why sufferers of dementia wander off is anxiety.
If you want to reduce their stress and anxiety levels, you must de-clutter their surroundings and clear out as much space as you possibly can. Make sure that they have enough space in their own house to roam around freely. According to some studies, unorganized surroundings filled with too many objects can make dementia patients feel claustrophobic.
8) Provide Them with Comfortable Bedding and Pajamas
Taking care of patients with dementia does not involve restricting their movement. Yes, it is necessary to monitor and control their movement at times, but you cannot rob them of their freedom to live a normal life or something that resembles a normal life.
At no point in time should a dementia patient feel that their movement is being restricted. This is why you should provide them with comfortable bedding and pajamas. You can take advice from the professional caregiver on what kind of bedding or pajamas would best suit the needs of your elderly loved ones. Be sure to always cater to their needs and keep their comfort levels high.
9) Place a Nightlight in Their Room
A few necessary changes have to be made to the sleeping habits of your elderly loved ones. Regardless of whether they have been sleeping with the lights turned off for most of their adult years, you need to install a nightlight in their bedroom. As mentioned before, some dementia patients tend to suffer from claustrophobia. Waking up in the middle of the night to discover nothing but pitch black darkness can trigger claustrophobia.
To fight this feeling, dementia sufferers could resort to panic stricken actions that might potentially lead to a severe injury. Installing a nightlight prevents them from being terrified of the darkness. It is worth mentioning that the brightness of the nightlight should be lowered. Studies suggest that bright lights usually prevent dementia patients from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
10) Keep the House Well Lit
Avoid switching off the lights in the corridors and the hallways. No matter how meticulous you are as a caregiver, there will be some degree of wandering off that you have to deal with if you are looking after a person suffering from dementia. This is the reason why you were asked to post those signs on the door.
Besides posting signs, you could ensure that there is sufficient nighttime lighting in nearly every corner of the house. This will significantly reduce the chances of your elderly one being injured when wandering off. The last thing you need is to have them walking around in a poorly lit room and bumping into a hazardous object. You should also keep a flashlight in their room so that they don’t panic during a power outage.
11) Remove Cords from the House
This is part of keeping the house well organized. You can’t afford to have any cords lying around on the floor. They are a tripping hazard. Remember that your loved ones can wander off to any room in your house. Therefore, there’s no point in clearing the cords from their bedroom only.
It is difficult for dementia patients to be mindful of their surroundings. Hence, you can’t really expect them to spot the cords while walking around the house. Given the fact that most dementia patients have deteriorating fitness, a single trip could lead to a severe injury.
12) Create a Map of the House
You wouldn’t want your loved one to forget their way around the house. Each time they forget the location of the bathroom, the living room, or the kitchen, it throws them into a state of utter confusion. This affects their mental health to a great extent. It is hard for a normal human being to imagine the kind of distress a dementia patient experiences during these periods of confusion
One simple way of reducing the probability of them forgetting their way around the house is to draw up a simple map of the house and place it in their bedroom. The map will definitely grab their attention if kept in the right place.
If they forget their way to the bathroom or the dining table, they could easily consult the map. It is also advisable to write down a few helpful notes on the map so that it is easier for them to understand the purpose of the map.
13) Make Sure that the Person Receives Enough Sunlight
Exposure to sunlight is vital for making the body’s natural clock function. Taking your elderly loved one out to the backyard, or asking them to spend some time with you on the balcony during the morning hours can help their body interpret time better. Receiving enough sunlight can also help patients with dementia recover from certain sleep disorders.