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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Household Cleansers Pose Dangers to Those With Dementia

Caretakers Warned of a Growing Problem
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The Alzheimer's Association recommends that caretakers keep a list of emergency phone numbers, check fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, and regularly conduct fire drills. People with dementia who tend to wander can be enrolled in the association's national Safe Return program; call (800) 272-3900 to register.

While people with dementia diseases such as Alzheimer's may see precautions as a threat to their independence, experts say the dangers can be minimized. According to the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Outreach organization, ways that caregivers and family members can unobtrusively create a safer environment include:

  • Installing door locks out of sight
  • Using safety devices such as childproof locks and doorknobs to limit access to places where knives, appliances, equipment, and cleaning fluids are stored
  • Adding extra lighting in entries, outside landings, areas between rooms, stairways, and bathrooms, as changes in levels of light can be disorienting. Bright light can be diffused by removing or covering mirrors and glass-top furniture and cover windows with blinds, shades or sheer draperies
  • Placing contrasting colored rugs in front of doors or steps to help the patient anticipate staircases and entrances
  • Supervising the person in taking all medications
  • Limiting the use of appliances and equipment such as mixers, grills, knives, and lawnmowers
  • Putting safety caps over electrical outlets
  • Keeping matches and lighters out of reach
  • Using flame retardant sheets and mattresses
  • Enclosing a portion of the yard to provide a secure area for enjoying the outdoors. Remove all poisonous plants, and keep garden chemicals in a locked cabinet
  • Removing locks from bathroom doors and making sure medication, sharp objects and toxic chemicals are removed or locked away

Vital Information:

  • Elderly family members with dementia have been known to swallow harmful household products, particularly those that are fragrant and attractively packaged, like pine cleaners.
  • Doctors say that fatalities are rare, but the risks merit attention.
  • Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association provide information on how prevent many different types of accidents in the home.
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