When Tools Become Traps

Olya Lechky

Making the home safe and secure for people with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is one of the biggest challenges confronting families and caretakers.

Protecting people with AD from physical hazards and providing them with emotional and psychological security is a fine balancing act, says Linda LeDuc, director of support services for the Alzheimer Society of Canada in Toronto. The key is to find a way to optimize safety and security, while fostering as much independence and dignity as possible according to a person's cognitive abilities.

Simple, small changes are usually enough to create a safe environment that remains familiar and comforting. Stripping the home of all potential hazards can create a bleak, depressing and frustrating environment that may prematurely foster dependence. "If a person can still safely use a knife to cut bread, there's no point in stripping the kitchen counters bare," says LeDuc. "It can be very frustrating if the person wants to cut a bagel and can't find a knife."

Safety and security issues are of paramount importance to the 29% of people with AD who live alone, supported by family, friends, paid workers and volunteers. Of concern are the periods of time when the person is alone, most frequently at night.