Caring for someone with dementia often requires coming up with creative ways to deal with the unexpected symptoms. Professional care facilities and assisted-living environments generally take steps to minimize the risks, but dementia sufferers are increasingly living with families or other caregivers instead of going to one of these facilities. Luckily, technology provides ways to optimize the home when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Effects of These Diseases
Dementia is chiefly characterized by disorientation, short (and eventually long) term memory loss, and difficulty with language and problem-solving. While some forms of dementia are temporary or reversible, the vast majority (including Alzheimer’s, the most common form) of dementia cases are progressive. In earlier stages, indications of dementia are short, mild, and frequently dismissed as normal or age-related confusion. Even when individual episodes become more severe and life-changing for everyone involved, the dementia sufferer can have long periods of seemingly normal behavior, giving false reassurance to caregivers who may be less vigilant as a result.
One of the most commonly reported issues with dementia sufferers is wandering. Typically, the person will unexpectedly decide to go somewhere, often to take care of some seemingly important task. This frequently happens in the middle of the night (exacerbated by the “sundowning” phenomenon), or at other times when nobody else is around to dissuade the potential wanderer. Once the person is out, they may forget what they intended to do, or become hopelessly lost and confused.
This is a dangerous situation, in even the safest surroundings, as dementia sufferers can ignore basic precautions, such as dressing for the weather or crossing the street safely. Driving a car is particularly problematic, raising serious life-threatening risks or complications. And of course there’s the potential to wander into truly dangerous locations, from bad neighborhoods and construction sites to forested areas and shores. All of this is additionally compounded by the greater chance they won’t have any identification and may even lose the ability to communicate vital information (address, phone number, or their name).
Using Home Security
There are several elements of home security that can help you care for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Door Chime: This is a simple magnetic contact device that registers immediately when a door is opened. This is a feature that comes with nearly every home security system. By integrating door chimes into a comprehensive security system, you get the flexibility to program the system to make them more effective, such as triggering the main alarm when the door is opened during the night or sending caregivers notifications via text message or email to help you monitor any door activity.
Assistive Lighting: Installing night lights or automated lighting systems is recommended among dementia and Alzheimer’s resources. Lighting will increase the wanderer’s awareness of their environment, reducing risk of harm and easing the effects of disorientation. Motion-sensitive lighting systems also provide an additional alert to caregivers that the sufferer is up and about. Again, such systems are relatively rare and specialized by themselves, but are included or easily configured as part of an overall home security system.
When you think of home security, you’re likely to think of protection against intruders or fire. Although that’s certainly a major goal for home security systems, there are additional ways it can help you and your loved ones stay safer. The SafeWise system finder is an easy-to-use tool that can help you discover solutions to problems you may not have associated with home security, like caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Written by Hillary Johnston
A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more