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Operating Devices

Living With Alzheimer's >> Day-To-Day Issues | 04.24.15

Operating devices: problems with common household accessories

Interacting with technology, from washing machines to home computers, is an essential aspect of modern life. Unfortunately, people with dementia may lose their ability to properly operate many common household appliances and devices. The first signs may be complaints and anger about a device not working. The person may simply avoid using the device out of frustration. However, if they continue to use devices improperly, it could lead to a dangerous situation.

Watch for these signs of problems with common devices:

  • Incorrect use or confusion with appliances a person has used for years
  • Avoidance of devices
  • Absentmindedness (forgetting to turn off the stove or iron)
  • Frequent annoyance with equipment and complaints that devices are faulty
  • Repeated purchases of equipment to replace “broken” devices

How should you respond?

If you feel the person can still use a device with some guidance, try providing a check list of simple steps they can refer to (for example, a sign posted in the laundry room with clear directions on using the washer and dryer). If frustration continues with devices like computers, tablets and remote controls, considering removing them from the person’s environment to keep the person from becoming upset. In some cases, you may be able to locate accessibility devices designed to be understood and used by people with dementia.

Keep the person safe around potentially dangerous equipment

Devices such as stoves, hot plates, irons and similar article devices can present a dangerous situation when used incorrectly. Keep an eye on a person’s ability to use any potentially dangerous device and make sure they are not putting themselves or others at risk. Be particularly vigilant with people who live alone. If their living situation is putting them in harm’s way, it is time to make other arrangements.

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