A safe yard is always important, but it’s especially important for someone with memory loss. The brain transformations that come with dementia can cause a person to wander, become fearful, get confused, or get lost. That’s why it’s important to assess your yard and perform necessary changes to make it secure and enjoyable for your loved one. Here are seven tips for making your yard safe for someone with memory loss.
1. Assess Walkways and Steps
To prevent tripping, you’ll need to fix walkways that have cracked pavement or uneven bricks. Consider replacing uneven stepping stones; they can be dangerous for someone with diminished balance. Be sure to keep pathways and steps free of garden hoses, snow, ice, moss, leaves, twigs, branches, and other tripping hazards. Also, move clutter such as bikes, balls, jump ropes, and other toys. Ensure that lighting is adequate, mark steps with glow-in-the-dark neon tape, and install handrails.
2. Install Fences
A fenced-in yard will give your loved one the freedom to enjoy being outdoors. Make sure the gates securely lock, and if you have a pool, enclose it with its own, separate, locked fence. If possible, avoid chain link fences, since some elderly people are still capable of climbing them. Also, try to avoid installing a fence with inward-facing brace beams, as these are also easy to scale. A farm fence with small openings is a good alternative. Make sure that the fence is at least six feet tall.
3. Eliminate Dangers in the Shed or Garage
Prevent access to heavy equipment such as lawnmowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, or weed trimmers. Make sure that chainsaws, drills, and nail guns are securely locked up. Beware of seemingly harmless tools such as a rake: If your loved one steps on it, it could hit them in the face or impale their foot. Poisonous chemicals such as paint thinner, gasoline, or antifreeze should also be treated as safety hazards.
4. Improve Outdoor Lighting
Since it’s easy for someone with memory loss to become confused, bright, effectively positioned lights can help them make sense of the yard. Install high wattages to make the yard extra visible. Inadequate lighting can produce shadows, which someone with memory loss may misconstrue as holes, monsters, thieves, or wild animals.
5. Trim Trees and Other Greenery
Although a person with memory loss may love being outdoors, they may not notice low-hanging branches, twigs, and leaves. These need to be regularly trimmed so that your loved one isn’t injured or poked by trees or bushes. Trimming back these plants also ensures that there’s no foliage for your loved one to get lost or stuck within.
6. Treat the Yard for Pests
For someone with memory loss, outdoor spaces should be as relaxing, safe, and calming as possible. However, exposure to mosquito, tick, and flea infestations, especially when the insects are on their body, can be terrifying for someone with dementia and can trigger symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and extreme fear. You can effectively protect your loved one by treating your yard for pests. Many pest control companies offer all-natural treatments that work quickly and effectively.
7. Check for Fire Hazards
Reduce fire hazards by securing flammable items such as gas tanks, propane tanks, kerosene, gasoline, and lighter fluid. Sometimes, people with memory loss may confuse an unsafe item for a safe one and touch or ingest it. Also, supervise any use of outdoor barbecues or grills.
Just like anyone else, people with memory loss can mentally and emotionally benefit from time spent outdoors in the yard. However, they need special accommodations in case they become confused, scared, or try to wander. With the seven suggestions listed above, your loved one will have a richer experience in your yard – and a safer one.