Learning to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can easily seem overwhelming.  One of the overlooked areas of care is the home environment.  As we age, physical abilities decline and it can become more difficult to manage home safety.  Follow this easy checklist to make aging in the home safe.

For general safety considerations:

  1. Is there a safe outdoor area that the person with Alzheimer’s/Dementia can use without wandering away (escape-proof porch or deck, fenced-in yard with a locked gate)?
  2. Have poisonous plants, shrubs or plantings with berries been removed?
  3. Are there security locks on all exterior doors (double keyed and installed out of sight, etc.)?
  4. Is a key hidden outside in case the person locks out a caregiver?
  5. Is access to stairwells, storage areas, basements, garages and other off-limits areas controlled (with locks, secure gates, Dutch doors, etc.)?
  6. Has access to home offices and computer/home finance area been controlled?
  7. If necessary, can all doors to the off-limits area be secured or disguised?
  8. Are there eye-level decals on all glass doors and large picture windows?
  9. Can all windows be securely locked?
  10. Is there a drawing, picture or short instruction list for tasks or daily schedule?
  11. Is there use of colors or color contrast to highlight an object?
  12. Is there a safe, clear pathway through the house where the person can walk or wander safely without tripping, knocking into or damaging something?
  13. If necessary, are childproof plugs in all unused electrical outlets?
  14. Are radiators and hot water pipes that a person might touch covered?
  15. Are all prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines locked up?
  16. Is alcohol out of sight and locked up?
  17. Are plastic/dry cleaner bags out of reach (could cause choking or suffocation)?
  18. Are all weapons locked up or removed from the house (guns, knives, etc.)?

If orientation or getting lost in the house is a problem:

  1. Are there signs, arrows and.or photographs pointing to the bathroom, bedroom, and other places the person needs to find?
  2. Are doors that the person needs to use highlighted (signs, color)?
  3. Is there a photo or memento on the door to help someone find their bedroom?
  4. Are there night lights or light strips leading to the bedroom from the bedroom?
  5. Is the bathroom door left open when not in use to serve as a visual cue?
  6. Are closets, drawers, and cabinets that hold things the person can use labeled?

If hallucinations/misrecognition are problems:

  1. Are light levels even so that shade and shadows are kept to a minimum?
  2. Has ominous looking artwork been removed (masks, distortions, abstract work)?

If they get upset by their or another person’s image:

  1. Are windows covered at night so a person cannot see their reflection?
  2. Are mirrors covered?
  3. Have portraits and large photographs of people removed or covered?

In the kitchen:

  1. Have sharp knives and other dangerous implements been removed or locked up?
  2. Has excess clutter been removed from countertops and tablets?
  3. Has the temperature for the hot water tap been reduced to avoid scalding?
  4. Have all vitamins, sweeteners, over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions drugs been removed (or left-out in limited quantities only)?
  5. Have all poisonous cleaning agents and hazardous materials been removed or locked up?
  6. Have all “fake” foodstuffs been removed (wax fruits, food shape magnets)?
  7. If necessary, has the kitchen been closed off?
Sources: Legg Mason’s “Aging and Its Financial Implications: Planning for Housing”, Olsen & Hutchings, Home Safety Checklist, Clemson’s Westmead Safety checklist, Gitlin et al’s “Home Environment Assessment Protocol for People with Dementia.”