Trends in aging: Rubies have issues with safety

By Wendy McHaney
May 9, 2014 at 12:09 a.m.

Today's column continues through the Senior Gems approach to care based on the Allen Cognitive Disability Theory. My previous columns discussed the first four stages - sapphire, diamond, emerald and amber.

This next series of columns will explore mid- to late-stage dementia, also known as the ruby stage. My last column highlighted the characteristics of and communicating with a person in the ruby stage, and today's column addresses how to provide a safe environment for a ruby.

Because of the development of monocular vision and loss of motor skills, safety becomes a major concern for a ruby. Rubies tend to have trouble with:• Balance

•  Remembering where they are

•  Forgetting how to use household items.

Monocular vision prevents a ruby from seeing their surroundings when walking. A multicolored rug becomes confusing, and a different color may look like a step.

Falling is a risk factor since they have begun to lose fine motor skills in their feet and are unable to move their feet to adjust their balance. The following steps should be taken to create a safe environment for a ruby:•  Ensure there is a clear pathway

•  Check for adequate lighting

•  Tuck or hide electrical cords behind furniture

•  Ensure all rugs lay flat with no bunches

•  Use baby gates to block the tops and bottoms of stairways

•  Close or block doors that a ruby should not enter unattended, such as a bathroom, laundry room or garage

•  Assist a ruby whenever possible and use cues if stepping up or over something.

Finally, understand that rubies will forget what common household items are and how to use them. For example, they may try to use a razor to brush their teeth or a knife to brush their hair. Be sure to keep any unsafe items out of view.

Also, unplug any appliances (and place the chord out of view) that a Ruby should not turn on without assistance, such as microwaves, stoves, or coffee makers.

Senior Helpers is presenting free workshops and support groups at Copperfield Village, 501 E. Larkspur Drive, every other Thursday from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. Call 361-894-8901 for more information about these workshops.

Previous columns on the stages of dementia as well as other trends in aging can be found at

Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems training materials

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit



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