Preparing For Taking In Your Parent With Dementia

Preparing For Taking In Your Parent With Dementia

Taking care of a parent with dementia requires a lot of mental and physical preparation. If you choose to take a parent into your home, there will be a lot of details to consider. A safe and comfortable environment will be amongst your top priorities.

Marcela holding hands courtesy of Le Grace Studio Flickrcom

Image courtesy of Le Grace Studio /

Individuals with dementia will lose their ability to identify safe from unsafe, so take that into consideration when preparing your home. A few other questions to ask yourself when getting ready to take in a parent with dementia:

     What will the impact of the new rooming situation be on your family? Will you have to convert a room to create enough space?

     Is there a bathroom easily accessible or on the same floor as where your parent will be staying? Will it be able to accommodate a wheelchair or walker?

     What renovations will you need to undertake to make your home safe and hospitable for a parent with dementia?

     Will your parent need to be under supervision? Do you need to hire a caregiver, or will you be able to create a home office?

Here are a few organizational and safety tips to prepare your home.

Marcela walker

Image courtesy of SalFalko /

 Safety considerations

Safety is one of the most important things to consider when moving a parent with dementia into your home. People suffering from dementia often forget basic tasks and precautions, and have a dangerous tendency to wander, so you need to create a safe environment to prevent accidents, injuries and additional stress. Take a good look at your home with new eyes to isolate  risks and hazards (if you’ve had to baby-proof the house recently, it will be somewhat similar experience). Here are some tips to consider while preparing your home for your parent.

1. Install safety locks on cabinets. Use safety locks or childproof latches on all cabinets with medication, cleaning products, and other potentially toxic materials that might be touched or ingested. Check cabinets in your bathroom, kitchen, storerooms, garages, and other common areas that may contain hazardous materials or tools. Label all medication and makes sure all dangerous implements like knives, lighters, matches, and scissors and any other potential weapons are securely locked up and far from reach.

2. Change bedroom and bathroom door locks. There’s a possibility that a parent with dementia can forget to how to unlock a door to get out, or might injure him or herself while in a locked room and need assistance. If you don’t change the door locks, make sure you have the keys on a nearby hook at all times so you don’t have to go scrambling for the key (assuming that there is a caregiver at home at all times). Opt for doorknobs with no locks or ones that lock from the outside (in case you need to keep your parent or others out of a particular room).

3. Install new locks on windows and doors. Again, as parents with dementia are often prone to wandering, make sure windows are secured with locks and have limited openings. Move the locks on doors that lead outside to a higher point to make it more difficult to get out. Or switch to a lock that your parent is unfamiliar with, so that it is more complicated to figure out.

4. Safety-proof the stove and oven. The kitchen area is a major hazard zone for young and old alike. Not only are the cupboards full of potential dangers (hence the safety latches and locks!), but also the stove poses one of the biggest risks. Individuals with dementia may turn the stove on, forget, and walk away, which may lead to a kitchen fire. In fact, persons over the age 65 are the most likely age group to die in a kitchen fire.

Either install an automatic shut off switch or safety knobs on the stove. Or you can set timers that ensure the stove is only useable during certain times of the day.

5. Keep car keys out of reach. Confused and disoriented individuals with dementia might attempt to drive themselves to work or run errands. Make sure you store car keys far out of reach.

6. Clear clutter and don’t rearrange furniture. Don’t unnecessarily rearrange furniture as it can lead to falls. Make sure there is enough space around the furniture for ease of movement. Clutter can contribute to a fall or add to confusion for a parent with dementia; keep floors and counters clear.

Organization tips

Making sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and details organized is also another factor to get into place to help make the move and transition easier.

1.Ensure that your parent has a form of ID on him/her at all time. In case your parent does wander off and get lost, and is unable to communicate or remember where home is, a  medical bracelet with name, address, and your cell phone number can help others help him or her home (or at least contact you).

2. Keep a list of medications and dosages that your parent takes. Using a small notebook, track your parent’s medication intake, doctor’s visits, and any other health episodes or incidents. This record will come in handy when you need to give their doctor a complete history. Include details like what the problem or issue was, how it was resolved, the attending doctor, any medication prescribed, and side effects from the medication.

 3. Establish routines. Structure is very important to individuals suffering from dementia. A set routine can help your parent stay oriented and keep episodes of confusion at bay. Keep consistent times for major activities like rising, sleeping, meal times, and so forth.

 4. Keep an extra set of everything. Make sure you have a spare set of glasses, hearing aids, IDs, on hand in case the original item gets lost.

Home safety is a must when bringing in a parent with dementia. Preparing your home and getting organized can help make the whole experience a little less challenging and decrease both your and your parent’s stress levels.

 Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. She covers a variety of health topics, from modern medicine to alternative therapy, fitness, and beauty. You can see more of her work by following her Twitter account.


7 Replies to “Preparing For Taking In Your Parent With Dementia”

  1. Studies continue to show that the elderly, disabled and special needs children over 5 thrive in their own homes, surrounded by cherished belongs. Help someone you know by providing them with a caregiver. There are Care Coordinators available/Case Managers who you can confer with.  Analyze your parent’s care needs and give you answers specific to your situation.

  2. Many times there is not a lot of time to prepare. There wasnt when I moved mom and dad (both with Alz) into my home. Dad was just starting his journey, his drivers license had been taken away and it was impossible for them to live where they were living (miles from town and on a lake). We learned as we went, I was still able to work part-time, but that ended when dad began to think it was alright for him to leave mom at home and go for a walk.
    I put up wind chimes in the doorways so I could hear when the door was being opened. I began to sleep downstairs in a recliner in the living room across from their room so I would know if one of them got up.
    It took 6 years and then I was unable to provide the care for them that they needed. Mom went into long term care in January 2011, dad in November 2011. Although in the same facility – they didn’t know each other. Until the day before dad died when mom, sitting at his bedside, took his hand and said “my husband”. Dad passed away the next day after lingering for 9 days in a comatose state.
    Being prepared is just what you do – its not always about having things “in order”. I would do it all over again if given the chance – but I know more now than I did then.

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