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The Birches Assisted Living Gives Caregivers a Lesson in Home Safety

On April 20, Occupational Therapist and Dementia Specialist Caroline Copeland shared home safety secrets in a presentation at The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill.

Clarendon Hills, IL, April 27, 2016 --( When you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, there are a lot of precautions you need to take to keep him or her safe in your home. On April 20, Occupational Therapist and Dementia Specialist Caroline Copeland shared some of these home safety secrets in a presentation at The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill.

In the presentation, titled “Safety in the Home,” Copeland discussed how to make your home a safe place for your loved one at each stage in the dementia disease process.

“As an occupational therapist, I’m really looking at where is somebody functioning within the disease process itself, because what’s best for someone functioning in the early stages of dementia is going to be very different from what’s best for someone who’s functioning in the middle or late stages of the disease process,” said Copeland.

According to Copeland, each individual’s personality and preferences also influence the role of caregivers and how they can best keep their loved ones safe. For example, if you’re loved one was always more sedentary and enjoyed watching T.V., it might be easier to keep him or her engaged through activities in the home.

But for those with a more independent and adventurous streak, you might need to implement more extreme safety measures—like keeping car keys locked away to prevent a spontaneous and potentially dangerous excursion.

“It all depends on the activities that people want to be able to do,” said Copeland. “You have to balance engaging them in activities they can still do and giving them the respect to do those things, yet maintaining their safety.”

Copeland says there are also a lot of little changes you can make to improve their quality of life and safety in the home— many of which you wouldn’t immediately think of.

People in the middle stages of dementia, for example, have short-term memory and vision problems which affect their day-to-day activities— even important ones like eating. In this stage of dementia, your loved one may need you to keep a watchful eye as they eat to make sure they finish their food, and provide other less obvious assistance.

“If you had somebody eating white rice or mashed potatoes on a white plate, it might be difficult for them to even discern what’s on the plate because of those perceptual deficits that they have in the middle stage of the disease,” said Copeland. “So I might recommend using a colored plate to provide a color contrast with the food that’s being served.”

Copeland’s most important advice for caregivers, however, is to be proactive. It’s important not to wait until something bad happens to make changes around the home. If you start right away, you can save yourself and your loved one a lot of unnecessary problems.

“You need to anticipate what potential dangers could be in your home. We don’t often think like that when we’re around adults, but a successful caregiver is proactive rather than reactive,” said Copeland. “You want to look at your environment and make sure that anything that’s potentially poisonous or hazardous is put away or locked up, because you don’t want somebody that has a cognitive impairment to get into those things.”

Copeland’s presentation was the second installment of The Birches’ three-part spring dementia educations series. The series wraps-up on May 11 with a presentation from Susan Frick, an educator and social worker for Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, titled “Effective Communication Strategies.”

The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills offers professional services to support the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual growth of the older adults who make it their home. The Birches offers purposeful programming and activities designed to promote a healthy aging lifestyle and a strong sense of community. For more information about The Birches, call 630-789-1135 or visit:
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The Birches Assisted Living
Jenny Smiechowski

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