What to Do When You Worry For the Safety of a Loved One with Dementia


Every new parent gets to experience the joy and fear of watching their little one crawl and then take those first wobbly steps. The joy comes from watching your child explore the world…the fear comes from the knowledge of all the future bumps and bruises that await. Unfortunately, when a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, their adult children can find themselves living with the same baited breath of new parents. An adult with dementia could wander away in a grocery store just as easily as a young child!

Here are Sunshine Care, we meet a lot of families that struggle with the question, “When is it time to put my loved one into a memory care home?” In answering that question, one key thing to consider is your loved one’s safety.

Safety Risks Increase Over Time

Alzheimer’s and dementia are both progressive illnesses, which means that your loved one’s care needs will increase over time as will their need for supervision. In the beginning, your mother or grandfather may simply seem forgetful or distracted. No reason to worry!

What happens, though, when Mom starts cooking a pot of soup on the stove, forgets about it and goes upstairs to take a nap? What if Grandpa forgets to take his heart medication three days in a row?

The Risks of Wandering

One of the scariest experiences that many families face is when a loved one gets lost. This can happen in a grocery store or even in a neighborhood where your loved one has lived for decades. This type of situation can be terrifying for a person who suddenly doesn’t know where they are or how to get back home, and for you as well.

It is also dangerous. Your loved one could become dehydrated, fall down, or panic. You may even have to call the police and set up searches to bring your loved one back home!


Another major risk for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated one in three seniors over the age of 65 falls each year and one in five falls causes a serious injury.

Though all seniors are at an elevated risk of a fall, those with advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia tend to be less cautious and aware of their environment, which increases their chance of a fall.

The Effect of Safety Concerns on Family Members

The burden for ensuring the safety of a loved one with dementia falls squarely on the shoulders of family members and caregivers. This can be a challenging and emotionally draining task. You may find that you don’t feel comfortable leaving the house for fear that Mom or Dad will leave the stove on. You may have to lock doors so they won’t leave and get lost. Even while you are trying to concentrate in a meeting at work, you may find yourself worrying about your loved one tripping on the edge of a rug or slipping in the shower.

When is it Time for a Memory Care Facility?

As much as you love your family member, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you can provide them with a safe environment and if you even have the physical and emotional energy to give them all the care they need. It’s more than okay if you can’t; you deserve to have a life too!

If you find yourself constantly worrying about your loved one with dementia, then it is time to consider placing them in a memory care facility. Places like Sunshine Care are designed to limit risk as much as possible. For example, our residents live in shared, single-story ranch homes (no stairs) with 24-hour supervision. Our campus also includes clearly marked walking paths around each home so that our residents can enjoy the beautiful outdoors without the risk of getting lost.

New parents do their best to keep their curious toddlers safe, but a few bumps and bruises can be a good lesson for children as they grow and begin to understand their world. The same is not true for older seniors. Bumps and bruises can lead to serious injury and should be avoided at all cost!

Have more concerns about the safety of your loved one with dementia?  Join us for our monthly Support Group Meeting.




Categories: Memory Care

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