Making Your Stairs Safer For Someone With Dementia


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Guest post by Reece McDonald of Dementia Clocks

NOTE: You should never leave a person with dementia at home by themselves. Even if you make the stairs safer, this does not mean that your loved one with dementia should be living in a place with stairs by themselves. You should always assist a person with dementia on the stairs.

The most worried-about area in anyone’s home are the stairs, as falling down the stairs can cause severe injuries, more-so for those living with dementia. 

Even a normal trip or fall for someone with dementia can cause a big knock in their confidence and leave them feeling less independent. The good news is that there are many ways to make sure that these kind of scenarios are avoided.

Here’s how to make your staircase safer for those living with dementia:

1. Think About Ramps
Even a smaller amount of stairs can cause just as big a risk as a full flight of stairs, many of the times these smaller stairs are less noticeable. Adding in a ramp can help to reduce the risks and will help to provide an alternative route to walk down. They are also a good addition for those people who rely on mobility aids to get around.

2. Improve Lighting
Having a good amount of light around the home is always important for those living with dementia, but it is most important around the stairs, this being the most likely place for accidents to occur.

Make sure the light is bright enough to illuminate the stairs from bottom to top.
If the light switch for the stairs is accessible only from one end, it would be a better idea to have another switch installed. Always make sure that the light switch is very easy to spot and is placed on a contrasting background to the wall itself.

3. Make Stairs Easier To See
If the stairs are all one single colour, whether that’s from a single carpet or laminate flooring, then it can be confusing for those with dementia to distinguish each step. These single colours can have an effect on parts of the brain which deal with depth perception and the contrast between colours. This will be harder for those with dementia to distinguish between colours and shadows when stepping up or down stairs.
– Paint outdoor and front door steps with a contrasting colour, this will make the stairs more noticeable to those people with dementia.
– Placing some brightly coloured electrical tape or card to the riser (the part of the step which is right-angled to where you place your foot).

4.Remove Any Potential Trip Hazards
Making sure that any objects which could get in the way whilst descending down the stairs are removed, as these could lead to unstable footing and lead to a nasty trip or fall. Not only could these be objects but it could also be a piece of carpet which has riled up so it is important to keep the stair surface as flat as possible.

5. Consider Hand Rails & Stair Aids
The best way to boost confidence and help to prevent falls is to install a handrail. This will help with staying balanced during climbing the stairs and give something to hold onto.

While many stairs have banisters which can be held onto, many don’t. 

– Install an easy grip wooden handrail. This is something that may be recommended once you have had a visit from an occupational therapist.

– There are many other stair aids such as special walking sticks which have a large box on the bottom to provide more stability and make it a lot easier whilst climbing steep stairs.

6. Is It Time to Have a Stairlift Installed?
If mobility is an issue for the person you are caring for and they are unable to get up the stairs unaided, then it may be a good idea to invest in a stair lift. Start lifts are not a cheap investment so it would be a good idea to weigh up any other possible alternatives first. For example, you could possibly consider moving the bed downstairs if there is space or changing the dining room into a bedroom.

Dementia Clocks are a supplier of specially-designed dementia products to help those with dementia keep some of their independence. It helps to aid them with day to day wellbeing and give friendly reminders to help keep the person you love safe.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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