Keeping Momma safe while dealing with dementia.
I woke up to a strange sound, sat straight up in bed. I glanced at the clock…2:00AM and lights are on down the hall. Momma’s up. With a deep sigh, I throw off the covers and got out of the bed to investigate. I reached the bathroom in time to see her fingers curled around a plastic bottle of rubbing alcohol. Stunned, I stood frozen for a split second, eyes wide, watching her lift the bottle to her lips. “Momma!” I yelled. “What are you doing?”
She stopped, looked at me like I was crazy and replied, “I’m thirsty.”
I snatched the bottle away from her, ran down the hall and yelled over my shoulder, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you some water.”
In the kitchen, I jumped from cabinet to sink. My body can’t move fast enough. “Oh my God,” I said out loud. “What if she had drank it?”
I finally got her settled back in the bed, but my pounding heart won’t let me calm down. What if I walked in sixty seconds later? The entire outcome would be different. My whole body shivers as my imagination takes over.
I know I’ll have things to do in the morning. I have some rearranging to do. I have to dementia-rize my Momma’s home.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be scary. It’s similar to looking after a toddler only worse you can tell a two year old what to do; but, your mother? The one who raised you? The one who made all the household decisions as you grew up? That’s tough.
Many dementia patients have difficulty welcoming a caregiver’s good intentions when it comes to locking up hazardous chemicals and rearranging their personal possessions. You’ll have to roll up your sleeves and get over it…get the job done. You’ll sleep sounder once her home is safe.
Here are some ways to #dementia-rize your home:
When it comes to creating a safe home, think three steps ahead. Go room by room. What objects could cause bodily harm or jeopardize the patient’s health?
- Install handrails and skid stickers in the bathtub and shower stalls.
- Install night lights throughout the house.
- Place plastic outlet covers on electrical outlets.
- Remove locks on all inside doors.
- Lock up cleaning agents, poisonous chemicals (fertilizers, weed, and ant killers) and alcoholic beverages.
- Allow only supervised access to medications.
- Allow or restrict access to yard and lawn equipment, power tools, etc.
- Remove gas grills and disconnect hookups in the yard.
- Place locks on exterior gates.
- Turn off the gas at the shut-off valve on the stove.
- Change out glass to plastic
- Maintain landscaping outside, taking extra care the yard is free of clutter, divots, and holes. Keep gates locked.
- Remove that cute butcher block knife set off the cabinet.
- Lock up that open wet bar with those wonderful tasty lavations. The bar is now closed!
Be prepared – accidents can happen. Make sure first aid kits are stocked and up-to-date. Ensure the fire extinguisher is working and finally, encourage caregivers to take first aid and CPR classes.
Also, be prepared for your Momma’s reaction to you reorganizing her stuff. Instead of welcoming your safety precautions, she might give you an ‘ear full’ about her now closed wet bar.
Stand firm, be consistent and speak with a soft authoritative tone. Avoid sounding condescending. Remember, she may look the same on the outside, but on the inside, her brain is slowly deteriorating. She’s unaware of her decline in good judgment and worsening short-term memory. She only knows her favorite son stands in the way of her daily activities.