Eldercare 911: Is Your Elder Parent Safe at Home?

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Eldercare and Dementia Expert Judie Rappaport from Preferred Lifestyle Services knows from more than 20 years of experience how simple home safety measures can improve and even extend the life of an elder parent.

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Eldercare Consultants

With a greater understanding of the needs for our elder parents, we can change the way the world sees the elderly.

For caretakers who wonder whether or not an elder parent - even one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia - needs additional safety measures, Eldercare expert, Judie Rappaport has compiled a list of seven easy questions which can help assess each individual’s needs.

She has made that List of 7 Questions and many other helpful guides and resources for eldercare available on her website: http://dementiaexpert.com.

“Don’t wait until there’s a problem,” urges Judie “take action at the first sign of impairment. Even if you are still working toward a diagnosis, start taking simple steps to protect your parent now!”

“More than ever before, people need this information,” Judies reports. The number of households providing eldercare for one or more loved ones is at an all-time high. Coupled with the fact that Alzheimer’s and related dementias are also being diagnosed at record-breaking rates, many adult children are now caring for parents with treacherous impairments.

The most widely diagnosed form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), erases past memories including those that help notice, acknowledge and avoid danger. AD patients cannot discern dangerous situations from safe activities.

What simple home safety measures can be implemented in order to maximize the quality of life for these elders? Judie takes an excerpt from her book, ©Eldercare 911, The Caregiver’s Complete Handbook for Making Decisions, and offers these easy suggestions:

  •     “Remove scatter rugs and make sure all electrical cords are out of walking areas. An elder parent may no longer recognize obstacles or the need to step over something lying on the floor and is many times more likely to take shuffling steps, trip, and fall.
  •     Call a professional to install railings on stairs and grab bars in the bath or shower so your parent can use them to balance and to avoid falls. An elder parent may not remember which surfaces are wet or how to take special care on slippery surfaces.
  •     Add more lamps or change light bulbs to a higher wattage if current systems can tolerate the increase. Elder parents with forms of Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease may not have the ability to take action to avoid dangerous edges on furniture and your parent will need bright lighting to avoid tripping or bumping into furniture edges. If possible, pad these edges with foam rubber.
  •     Place night-lights throughout the house to help avoid stumbling or falling if your parent wanders during the night. Pay particular attention to stairways. When Alzheimer’s patients wander, they do not remember the potential dangers of stairways, the need to hold on to rails, watch where they are stepping, etc.—they are therefore more likely to fall.
  •     Place a safety gate on stairways. Make certain someone is available to open the gate in case of an emergency.
  •     If your parent wanders, raise the lock on outside-access doors above your parent’s reach or Velcro a cloth the same color as the wall over the doorknob. This will make the doorknob almost invisible and keep your parent from opening the door. Do not try these techniques or block exits unless your parent has twenty-four-hour supervision to help evacuate in an emergency.
  •     Make certain chairs are heavy enough to stay put if your parent suddenly ‘plops’ down; many kitchen or dining room chairs can skid or tip backwards and cause a fall.
  •     As the level of impairment increases, be certain balconies and walkways are only accessible under supervision.
  •     Secure all medications, even over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin, laxatives, and vitamins. Just because you dispense the medications safely and Mom has never so much as looked at the containers, doesn’t mean that Mom won’t decide to eat the contents tomorrow when you aren’t around.
  •     Firearms and chemicals, including household-cleaning products or insect sprays, should be stored out of reach in locked cabinets. Dementia may have robbed Mom or Dad of the ability to recognize the difference between bleach and orange juice.”

Since each elder parent is unique, the care for each parent should also be individualized. Whatever the living arrangements – at home, assisted living, or a full time care facility – the elder parent’s particular needs should always be met, especially when it comes to safety.

Judie adds her inspiring words, “I hope we all develop a greater understanding of the needs for our elder parents. With more information, education, and support for caregivers, we can change the way the world sees the elderly.”

Judie Rappaport is the President of Preferred Lifestyle Services, which provides care management services specializing in care for families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. She writes a blog as well as a question and answer forum for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias caregivers at http://www.dementiaexpert.com and http://www.preferredlifestyleservices.com. The websites provide links to vital information and programs.

She is also the co-author of the well-received books, Eldercare 911: The Caregivers Complete Handbook for Making Decisions and The Eldercare 911 Question and Answer Book. Judie also writes, Eldercare 911, a weekly column answering readers’ caregiving questions. The successful column is in it’s 7th year in Florida’s Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

For more information on eldercare specializing in the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, contact Judie Rappaport at JR(at)prefsvcs(dot)com or phone 561-277-9544.

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