How to Prepare Your Home to Successfully Care for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s by Lydia Chan
An estimated 5.7 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, this illness eventually takes away a person’s freedom by making it difficult — and eventually, impossible — for them to care for themselves. This puts many families in the position of caregivers when they invite their loved one with Alzheimer’s to live with them so they can receive the ongoing care they need. If you are about to take on this challenge and bring a loved one with Alzheimer’s into your home, here are some ways to prepare and set yourself up for success.
Adaptability vs. Teaching
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about the task of making sure your loved one is safe and comfortable in your home. The wrong way is teaching your loved one how to live in your home environment. The right way is true adaptability — making changes to your home to better suit their condition.
“Avoid trying to re-teach the person about safety. Instead, identify possible risks and take precautions,” they note.
First steps: secure potential dangers
Alzheimer’s affects memory, judgment, behavior, cognitive ability, and physical ability as it progresses. This means that common household objects and appliances — harmless to you and me — can become dangerous to your loved one. That’s why your first job is to secure any potential hazards around your home. You’ll want to use child locks on cabinets and drawers with cleaning chemicals, as well as knives and other sharp implements. You should lock certain rooms to your home in order to limit their access to them. Install deadbolt locks on the upper or lower planes of your exterior doors to prevent them from wandering outside when you’re not around. And finally, consider disabling automatic starters on gas ranges.
Check out this safety checklist for more ideas.
Prevent slips and falls
Your next step is to make your home is as secure and stable as possible. This starts with installing handrails and grab bars near showers, baths, and toilets. Stairways can be blocked off with baby gates. You should tape down rugs and secure cords to baseboards to limit tripping hazards. Finally, you should make sure to keep clutter to a minimum. If this becomes a challenge (and it very well might), consider hiring a housekeeper. It’s that important.
Focus on lighting
Many are unaware that visual problems are a part of progressing Alzheimer’s. One of the best ways to make your home safer and more inviting to a patient is to make sure it’s well-lit. Overhead lighting isn’t always the best, so make sure you have focused lighting, like table lamps. One good suggestion is to put night lights on as many outlets as you can in order to illuminate your loved one’s path at all times.
Think about functionality
Though you will be there as a caretaker and guiding hand in their everyday life, there are things that your loved one will be doing on their own. You must consider the functionality of your home. This can mean doing simple things, like using a label maker to label cabinets, containers, and food items. It can also mean taking up some home renovation and installing a walk-in shower or altering your flooring for better mobility. Think about streamlining your appliances and wares. For example, limit the choices your loved one has in terms of drinking glasses, dishware, and toiletries. Too much variety can cause confusion in Alzheimer’s patients.
You won’t be able to fashion your home into a perfect living space at the beginning; it will be a process. Your number one goal is to be adaptable. If something’s not working, change it. If something is working, don’t rock the boat. Alzheimer’s is a condition with little predictability, so you’ll have to be on your toes at all times. Look for ways to make your loved one’s life easier every day.
Photo by Sam Wheeler on Unsplash