A home not a prison

I remember watching a BBC documentary about a family learning to cope after the 50 something year old dad was diagnosed with dementia. They used cameras around the house to document his behavior and family interactions.

Two scenes remain with me. One where the camera’s show the dad walking around the kitchen opening cupboards and eventually stashing his coat under the sink. Cut to the same camera shot several weeks later where his daughter and wife find the coat and wonder how it got there and realising he must have done it in a confused state.

The next scene I recall was the family talking about the strategy they came up with to stop him walking out the front door.  They basically hung a big curtain across the front door to make it hard for him to find his way out as the door was hidden from view. it worked as they showed a night vision clip of the dad getting out of bed in the middle of the night and looking for the front door.

Well we may be getting to this point. We came home this afternoon to find the front door open. Immediate panic sets in. Luckily mum was still in the house, sitting on the sofa. However she had her coat on and her walking stick in her hand. Basically she was preparing to go outside and initially could not remember why but thinks she wanted something from the shop around the corner.

Those of you with elderly parents or grandparents may not worry as hopefully they are still capable and able to walk reasonably well.Mum however has to walk with a frame around the house, claims she is nearly blind and when you then factor in the memory issues, you can hopefully understand why this is a bigger challenge for us.

I wonder if there is a app similar to “Find my Phone” for “Find my mum with dementia”.

I can see her wondering off and not knowing where she was going and not remembering where she lives.

So we now have to think about strategy to keep her safe. So again a list for others to consider in a similar situation.

  • We’ve added hooks to the cupboard where mums coat is stored to try and deter her from putting her coat on with out someone to help
  • We’ve add a hook to the larder door to deter her from helping herself to food that she cant see properly. We had another incident of mum look for sweets and finding and partially eating a chicken stock cube

stock cube

  • We have internal cameras and a ring.com front door bell/camera to hopefully see if anything happens and which way she walks if she does go outside.
  • You can buy GPS trackers which she could wear but knowing mum she would take off as it would get in the way.
  • We could get those wrist bands that you write your mobile number on that schools etc use when kids go on school trips in case she does wonder.

What I don’t want to do is make the house a prison as it is our home, but I need to keep mum safe. We can’t lock the doors as carers need to get in, and what happens if there was a fire or something that mum did need to get out of the house on her own. But then I wonder if she would react to the smoke detector.

So Google do your best and give me some suggestions. I wonder if you can fit door catches that lock but automatically release when the smoke alarm goes off and can be opened by a key from the outside.

What I find disappointing is that with NHS funding constraints and a desire to encourage people to stay in their homes as they get older, finding solutions to these common challenges in the day of connected homes isn’t easy let alone cheap.

I wish I had time, resources and skills to invent solutions to these problems as more and more of us are going to need them in the future.



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