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My mother-in-law has dementia and often doesn't know where she is. We moved her in with us. Her bedroom was upstairs in her previous home. The only thing that will come of her going upstairs is hurting herself or waking my young children (ages 4 and 1). A baby gate doesn't stop her. She knows how to open them (despite not being able to do hardly anything else for herself). She will often get out of her bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and then head upstairs to "go back to bed". This has led to her disrupting my daughters' sleep every night, which disrupts our sleep and makes for irritable children throughout the day. There is absolutely no reason for her to go upstairs. We don't need a stair lift. We cannot install a door at the bottom of the steps. What can we do to keep her from venturing upstairs?

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Sweetstuff made the suggestion I was going to say - hang a drape at the bottom of the stairs (along with still using a gate of some kind.)

For the suggestions about a rug, I have seen some in online ads for rugs that actually look like a hole - perhaps that would work better than a regular rug?

As for gates, try a different type, with a different latch? My daughter has doggie gates that took some figuring out - they snapped shut, but also had a special release. It was better when she wouldn't secure that (for me to use!) They are little ones, so they can't really undo it, just simply close and leave it.

I also hated the one my mother put in to keep my dad from falling down the stairs (open stairwell to a finished basement - I detested that gate AND the stairs. Really bad design for a 55+ community and even the stair treads, despite my small feet, seemed treacherous! My stair treads are much bigger.) In retrospect, the gate she put in would have been a major concern for me to have him topple over it - it was just a baby gate size, easy enough for a good sized adult who stumbles passing by it (to their bedroom, and just outside the second bathroom) to fall over and head down the stairs head first! REALLY bad design in that place!

Although the Lego suggestion was amusing, it probably wouldn't be a good idea, esp if MIL isn't steady on her feet. We don't want the next Lego movie to be about elder abuse.... ;-) Same for the motion detecting screams... might cause more harm - even for the others in the household!
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Reply to disgustedtoo
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I thought of something. They have those motion detecting decorations around Halloween that'll scream if someone walks in front of them... maybe put a few of them near the bottom of the stairs?
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Reply to ZippyZee
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zip tie the gates

plastic wrap challenge wrap the stair way so she cannot pass through it.

place her where you really are avoiding :( last choice

tag you are her only family ... you are the chosen ones...... like many of us...

why can you not install a door or gate at the base of the stairs?

She may need more help than you can offer up with the kids etc...
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Reply to MAYDAY
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Does she go in her bare feet? If so buy a bucket of Legos and scatter them in front of the stairs.

Having a demented elder living in a house with children as young as yours is an awful idea btw.
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Beatty Nov 26, 2020
Can see the hospital fall paperwork now... reason for fall: LEGO.

Zippy you are very naughty!
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Maybe a sleeping medication at night so she doesn't get up?
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Reply to BurntCaregiver
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MAYDAY Nov 26, 2020
sometimes that may make them wonder..... and not knowingly. :(

and then here it comes.... she was sleep wondering and fell.....
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Nail or tape a banner across the stairs that says in BOLD RED LETTERS, “STAIRS UNSAFE.” Worked for my mom, who is late middle stage.
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Reply to Tenajh
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Llamalover47 Nov 26, 2020
This didn't stop my sister in law from entering a highway that said DO NOT ENTER. She and her grandchildren were lucky that another driver picked up on her error.
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Imho, secure the barrier better so that she cannot breach it. Prayers sent.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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How about hanging a curtain rod and long curtain panel to hide the stairs? Good luck.
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Reply to Sweetstuff
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How about a folding full door at the bottom of the stairs? There are many kinds of baby gates and for some the locking mechanism could be reinforced with a lock and key or bike chain?
I would consider locking her in her bedroom during the night or else hiring a night time sitter.
Use a simple baby monitor so you can make sure she is safe.
Your children need to sleep. What a difficult problem.
Good luck with a solution.
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Reply to InFamilyService
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Stairs + dementia + Parkinson's = falls.

Agree with suggestions already made:

Keeping the stairs off limit by physical barriers (installing a lockable door at the bottom) or rely on a baby monitor (to get adult supervision to her quickly).

Would locking her bedroom door be an option you would consider? Certainly not ideal. (But others with elders starting kitchen fires or leaving the home at night have had to consider this).
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Reply to Beatty
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I would raise the gate so she can not step or crawl over it.

I would also get a hook or something to create another lock she has to figure out.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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Try beefing up the barricade.
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Reply to BedfordPark
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Have you tried installing the baby gate upside down?
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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Possible solutions depend on the stage of dementia your MIL is currently in. In the early stages, with repetition, new learning is possible and you can interrupt and instill new habits.
You could try a bright colored note at the bottom of the stairs saying “don’t use the stairs”, assuming she can read and understand what she reads. I’m surprised by how often a client has been able to read and comprehend, even in the later stages of dementia. I would start by pointing the note out to her during the day to see how she responds to it and so that you can get her used to it.
If you don’t think that will work, you could try a baby monitor that will wake you so that you walk her back to her room. This may help to break the old habit and build a new one. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be doing this for the rest of her life although it may take a little while of interrupting your sleep.
Good luck💕
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Reply to Protam
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If she goes to the bathroom at the same time every night, try escorting her to the bathroom and escorting her back to bed. Most people should be able to hold their urine throughout the night. If she can not, please have that checked out by her doctor.
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ACaringDaughter Nov 25, 2020
A lot of medications cause people to go to the bathroom during the night.

Frequency is extremely common in the elderly around the clock.
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A couple thoughts.

Can you make sure the stairs are dark, no lights upstairs, so she cannot easily see them at night? Is there a night light in her room or other lights to guide her back to her room?

I have seen suggestions in the past to put a black or very dark rug at the doorway of a room you do not want an elder to enter. It looks like a hole. I have no idea if this works, but is may be worth a try.

Does Mum have to pass the stairs on her way to and from the bathroom? If not, can you keep the area dark at night?

By its very nature, dementia means a person cannot really learn new things. She is remembering that her bedroom was upstairs and going by instinct. You need to interrupt the instinct.

You may need to try a different type of gate. I have one that pressure fits into a doorway, it is very difficult to release the latch that releases the pressure.
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Reply to Tothill
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Stairs are always a problem with dementia it seems. Here is an article that might offer you some things to try.
https://www.agingcare.com/articles/wandering-top-tips-how-to-secure-and-dementia-proof-your-home-432431.htm
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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Well, first of all let me be frank - moving MIL, a person with dementia into your home, IMO, was not a good idea mainly due to the fact that you have two very young children, whose needs are the #1 priority which includes a peaceful nights sleep. I can't think of anything that would safely keep MIL downstairs other than you & your wife taking turns sleeping on the couch so that you might hear her open bedroom door, or open the baby gate so that you could then get up and gently direct her back to her bed. The other, is hire a nightime caregiver to sit with her so that they can get her back to her bed. I know that Covid-19 is an issue when it comes to this last suggestion, but she could be placed in Memory Care at an NH near your home. I hope you can find a solution soon.
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