Household Cleansers Pose Dangers to Those With Dementia
Caretakers Warned of a Growing Problem
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
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
- 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
- Removing locks from bathroom doors and making sure medication, sharp
objects and toxic chemicals are removed or locked away
- 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.