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Where can I get dementia support to help keep my family members safe?

June 8, 2012

My husband has dementia, my dad has Alzheimer's, and my Mom has not been diagnosed but has clear signs. I work all day and spend time with my parents. How can I feel that my husband and my mother are safe at home?

First, I'd like to say that I have great empathy for your situation and concern. You have a lot on your plate. Dealing with three close relatives with dementia must be very difficult. I am glad you are reaching out for information and support and hope that you will take steps to take care of yourself.

Let's start out by discussing your husband's situation. If he is still early in his dementia journey, he may be able to manage on his own for periods of time. Simplify the environment whenever possible and encourage him to stick to familiar routines.

Home safety is a real concern when a loved one has dementia. If your husband's judgment and problem-solving skills are not reliable, he could leave the stove on, forget the bathwater is running, or set off for a walk in a snowstorm.

The book The Complete Guide to Alzheimer's-Proofing Your Home by Mark and Ellen Warner is an excellent place to begin. You'll learn how to assess your home and apply tips for making it safer, inside and out. Many steps are relatively simple, like putting away sharps, turning down the hot water heater, restricting access to chemicals and power tools. The Alzheimer's Association's Safety Center is another useful resource

With a full-time job and responsibilities for three impaired people, you must be overwhelmed. From your letter, I can't tell what family resources you have, but consider convening a family meeting to air your concerns. Perhaps other family members will be willing to spend more time with your loved ones. If not, this might be a good time to seek in-home help or begin looking for residential care placement. With someone else keeping an eye on your husband and your parents, you'll feel more secure.

One final suggestion and it involves “thinking out of the box.” Is it possible that your husband could spend his days with your parents? Even with his dementia, he might be able to help them with some chores and support. This might help your husband feel that he is still contributing by helping others.

Combining households at least for the daytime might also help you afford more hours of in-home help. The worker could come in and support all three individuals – you've almost created your own day or social program!

Best wishes to you during this tough time. I hope you will seek out a local support group for further information and support.

Additional Alzheimer's and Dementia Resources are available to assist you in caring for your senior loved one.

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