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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Huelat

Safeguarding Your Loved One: Navigating Dementia Care with Expertise

Updated: Apr 10

In the midst of an out-of-town conference in San Diego, my late husband Joe, then in the early mid-stage of dementia, ventured out of the hotel without my knowledge. Determined to locate a firm in Santa Monica where he had worked four decades ago, he boarded a bus, hoping it would take him there. Fortunately, the observant bus driver sensed his confusion and promptly alerted the authorities, who safely returned him to our hotel. While relieved to find him unharmed, the incident was a stark reminder of the constant vigilance required in caring for someone with dementia.

Safety is paramount for individuals living with dementia. Symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, and disorientation, compounded by limited mobility and environmental changes, heighten the risk of accidents. As caregivers, it is imperative that we remain vigilant as the condition progresses, adapting our strategies to meet evolving needs. That fateful afternoon in San Diego served as a poignant lesson: Joe's dementia meant that even familiar surroundings were no longer safe for him to navigate alone.

As dementia advances, the need for a comprehensive safety plan becomes increasingly critical. By implementing proactive measures, we can mitigate risks, prevent injuries, and alleviate the anxiety experienced by both the individual with dementia and their caregiver. Here are ten essential safety considerations to address regularly:

  1. Safety Assessment: Conduct monthly walkthroughs to identify and address new safety risks.

  2. Kitchen Safety: Secure or remove potentially hazardous items such as access to stoves, garbage disposals and access to sharp implements.

  3. Bathroom Safety: Install textured non-slip surfaces and grab bars to prevent slips and falls.

  4. Stair Safety: Ensure adequate lighting, two-sided handrails, and clutter-free stairs.

  5. Fall Risk Management: Remove tripping hazards such as rugs and extension cords.

  6. Wandering Prevention: Utilize GPS wearable devices, home monitoring systems, and secure locks.

  7. Toxic Items: Safely store chemicals, cleaning supplies, and medications out of reach.

  8. Clutter Reduction: Keep living spaces organized, free of excess furniture clutter.

  9. Adequate Lighting: Eliminate dark shadows and provide bright lighting especially in stairs, bath, kitchens and in task areas.

  10. Emergency Preparedness: Maintain a list of emergency contacts in a readily accessible location.

While these measures address common safety concerns, it's essential to remain vigilant for other potential hazards. For example, my mother had a tendency to unlock the basement stairs repeatedly, and she once mistook nail polish remover for perfume. Each individual with dementia presents unique challenges, and caregivers must adapt accordingly to ensure their safety and well-being.

For further guidance on navigating the complexities of dementia care, consider exploring my book, "Taming the Chaos of Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide to Interventions That Make a Difference." Within its pages, you'll find practical insights and strategies to navigate this challenging journey with empathy and skill.

Danger in the kitchen
Kitchen is a high risk area for those with dementia

Barbara Huelat, a leading authority in healthcare design, author, and speaker, shares her expertise in her latest publication, 'Taming the Chaos of Dementia.' Drawing upon her deep understanding and passion for the subject, Barbara offers invaluable wisdom for caregivers, transforming the caregiving experience into an empowering journey. Discover Barbara’s insights at or reach her at 703-795-1743 for an enriching experience in dementia care.

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