Creating a Safe Environment Should Be First Priority When Caring For Those With Dementia
While watching the movie The Savages, I felt myself cringe during one particular scene. Wendy, the grown daughter who is played beautifully by Laura Linney (nominated for Best Actress for this year's Oscars!), decides she wants to spruce up her father's room at the nursing home. Following a shopping spree, Wendy brings in newly purchased room accessories, including a throw rug. As she begins to put the throw rug down, I found I wanted to stop her immediately. Well-intentioned as she was, Wendy wasn't aware that she might be creating a potential hazard for her father, who had vascular dementia.
Several articles and books report that people who have dementia often suffer from a loss of coordination, which can include walking. "For example, at first a person may seem only slightly unsteady when walking, but he may gradually change to a slow, shuffling gait," according to Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, authors of The 36-Hour Day. In addition, the person with dementia may develop a stooped or leaning posture. The loved one also may fall when first getting out of bed.
A recent article by Anne Groer of The Washington Post provided multiple ideas for creating a safe environment for seniors. These suggestions, which are excellent for creating the living environment for a loved one with dementia, include:
- Putting a night light in every room, near the floor level.
- Taking up small scatter rugs.
- Using double-sided tape between area rugs and the pad.
- Putting handrails on both sides of all steps.
- Using bright, glare-free lighting.
- Eliminating extension cords or placing them so they don't pose a hazard by causing tripping.
We all want to make our loved ones who have dementia feel like they are living in a warm, loving environment, whether in their home or in some type of retirement community. The challenge becomes making sure that the décor is conducive to safety concerns; only by creating a safe environment will caregivers create the appropriate situation for their loved ones.