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Dementia - keeping safe in the home

It is important to make sure the home of someone who has dementia is safe for them.

See also:

Wandering can be a serious problem in people who have more advanced dementia. These tips may help prevent wandering:

  • Place alarms on all doors and windows that will sound if the doors are opened.
  • Place a "Stop" sign on doors to the outside.
  • Keep car keys out of sight.

To prevent harm when someone with dementia does wander:

  • Have the patient wear an identification bracelet or necklace with their name, address, and phone number.
  • Tell neighbors and others in the area that the person who has dementia may wander. Ask them to call you or to help them get home.
  • Fence and close off any areas that may be dangerous, such as a stairwell or deck, or a hot tub or swimming pool.
  • Consider giving the person a GPS device or a cell phone (which will have a GPS locator embedded in it).

Inspect the person’s house, and remove or reduce hazards for tripping and falling. See also: Preventing falls

Do not leave a person who has advanced dementia alone in the home.

Lower the temperature of the hot water tank. Remove or lock up cleaning products and other items that may be poisonous.

Make sure the kitchen is safe.

  • Remove knobs on the stove when it is not in use.
  • Lock up sharp objects.

Remove, or store in locked areas:

  • All medicines, including the patient’s medicines and any over-the-counter drugs and supplements
  • All alcohol
  • All guns. Separate ammunition from the weapons.

References

Knopman DS. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 409.

Smith DA, Brechtelsbauer DA. Delirium and dementia. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 48.

Moore, HD, Algase DL, Powell-Cope G, Appelgarth S, Beattie ER. A framework for managing wandering and preventing elopement. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2009 Jun-Jul;24(3):208-19.

Dave J, Hecht M. Dementia. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 119.

Petersen RC. Mild cognitive impairment. N Engl J Med. 2011;364:2227-2234.

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      Review Date: 5/13/2012

      Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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