Understanding Alzheimer’s and Making Preparations for Care

Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating form of dementia that’s common among people aged 65 and older. It is a serious brain disorder that has a significant impact on a person’s ability to perform daily activities, such as bathing, eating, and going to the bathroom. People who suffer with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit confusion, aggression, or be completely unfamiliar with

Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease

life-long friends and family. In the following post, we’ll cover a few simple ways to prepare your home for a loved one with this crippling condition. But first, a quick introduction to Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

As previously mentioned, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is a disease that begins slowly and affects the parts of the brain that control language, memory, and thought. According to the US National Library of Medicine, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is not a mild cognitive impairment and, despite the availability of medications that can help manage symptoms, it is not a condition from which your loved one can recover.

According to Redfin, “Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.4 million Americans, about 5.2 million of which are 65 and older. It can be your grandparent, your cousin, your sibling or even your parent who faces the diagnosis. Eventually, those with Alzheimer’s require round-the-clock care, and for many families, that means taking the loved one into their own home.”

If you’ve recently made the decision to handle your loved one’s care yourself, the following home preparations can help keep your family member safe and sound:

Start with the exterior – When possible, opt for a wheelchair ramp in lieu of steps. Even if the senior has thus far maintained his or her mobility and vision, Alzheimer’s can progress quickly, making something as seemingly mundane as walking up the stairs a difficult task. Make sure your home is fully fenced to prevent wandering, which is a common side effect of mid-to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Trim bushes and remove any plants that could be mistaken as edible.

In the bedroom – Offer your loved one a bedroom on the first floor of your home. This will give them easier access to the kitchen, bathroom, and common areas. Outfit their personal space with familiar belongings, such as photos of themselves at a younger age or keepsake family heirlooms. Avoid excess furniture and throw rugs as these items increase your loved one’s chances of having a trip and fall accident. The National Safety Council further recommends securing carpet to the floor and keeping daily items, such as clothing, readily accessible.

Bath and shower – The Mayo Clinic reports that those with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble performing basic hygiene tasks, such as bathing. You should provide a safe and comfortable bathroom where your family member can continue their personal hygiene routine unassisted as long as possible. You can prolong their independence by keeping this room well-lit throughout the night and adding non-slip tiling at the exit of the bath or shower. Ideally, your loved one will have access to a no-profile shower or walk-in bathtub with safety grab bars already installed.

Common areas – While it is not necessary to give up everything that illustrates your sense of style, making a few accommodations for the individual with Alzheimer’s will make life easier for everyone. In the kitchen, keep your counters clear of clutter and ensure sharp knives and other dangerous tools are out of sight. Keep a functional fire extinguisher handy but hidden in a high cabinet. Your television, entertainment stands, and bookcases should be securely fastened to the wall. Clutter should be eliminated throughout the home. Install a safety gate at the top and bottom of stairways and clearly mark doors and window.

Not everyone with Alzheimer’s disease will present with the same symptoms at the same time. Only you can determine areas your loved one needs the most help. However, a few simple home modifications and an understanding of the disease will make things easier on your entire family.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit Cedars-Sinai’s Health Library

Written by Lydia Chan

Living Facilities Provide Support as We Age

As we and our loved ones age, sometimes we need to readjust living situations to get the support that is needed in all stages of life. There are a wide variety of housing options to fit any age, health, or desired residency services.

Congregate Living

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Congregate living is commonly known as residential care, custodial care, or support housing. It allows for independent living and privacy while still having access to continual supervision and care. Congregate living offers private apartments as well as common areas where residents can socialize. The facility may offer convenient services, such as cleaning and laundry, transportation outside the facility, and even meals in the common dining room. Congregate living facilities have 24-hour staff to check up on and assist residents.

Assisted Living

Assisted-living facilities are long-term residency options that offer personal care. For example, facility services usually include laundry, transportation, personal care (bathing, dressing, etc.), housekeeping, shopping, exercise or social activities, medication assistance, and all meals.

If you or a loved one are struggling to care for personal well-being and a home, assisted living is a valuable option. Assisted-living facilities are a benefit for those with declining personal hygiene, a disorderly or dirty home, an empty refrigerator or panty, or perilous forgetfulness.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Nursing homes have two distinct residency options. Nursing homes house and care for short-term residents who are recuperating from surgery or illness or are in need of physical therapy. Nursing homes also house and care for long-term residents that need additional medical and personal care beyond that of an assisted-living facility.

Whether residents are short or long term, nursing facilities typically offer private or semiprivate rooms with shared bathrooms. Since the facility focuses on providing medical care, social activities are usually minimal.

Accessory Apartments and Add-On Living Spaces

Some houses might have the space and structure for add-on living spaces, which can allow you or a loved one to stay close to and be cared for by family or friends. Add-on spaces can be free-standing structures, like a small house in the same lot, or can be an additional apartment or complete living space within the home. These add-on living spaces generally have their own separate entrance, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen or cooking facility.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are facilities that offer several levels of care within one location. Facilities can include independent living, assisted living, special care living (memory, etc.), and nursing and rehabilitation. These communities can carefully guide residents through varying stages of health and aging. Residents can feel secure in knowing they will be cared for, without having to move, as their needs change.

Small-Scale Assisted Living

Small-scale assisted living, often called foster care or group homes, can offer simple board and care in a smaller, home-type setting. Generally, these facilities are private homes that have been converted to offer care for four to ten residents. These facilities work to serve people who do not want to or cannot live independently but don’t need a nursing-home environment.

Living Facilities to Match Our Needs as We Age

There are incredible housing options to support us and our loves ones as we age. There are living facilities for those who prefer a private home setting and for those looking for a full-care facility. Carefully consider how you and your loved ones can best live comfortably and what you want in a care facility or home, then make the plans and preparations so you and your loves ones can be happily cared for.

—Stephanie Bentley

 

Managing Multi-Level Homes as We Age

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As we grow older, both mentally and physically, our bodies might need a little lift here and there for support and ease. It’s important for us to recognize that receiving help does not make us more dependent. Our capacity to choose to receive support is what embodies our spirit of independence; we choose to be comfortable and to be at ease.

Consider that as we age, moving and maneuvering around the house might be more difficult, especially if we live in a multi-level home. Do we want to walk up and down stairs all day? Or do we want to avoid arduous climbs within the walls of our own home? For those of us in a multi-level home who are looking to simplify our lives and simplify the movability within our own home, consider the following options.

Find A Home that Fits Your Needs

Downsizing or right-sizing may be the solution for people who want a more comfortable home. If your two-story home has become bigger than your current situation needs, it might be time to find a new home. There are an endless variety of home designs and layouts. Find one that best fits what you need and want. Look for a one-story home that has a stairless entry or a ramp that leads to the front door. Maybe you want a floor plan with a large open kitchen and family room area but fewer bedrooms.  This would allow space for the family to gather when they come visit (but not move in). Are you thinking about installing handrails? Then look for hallways with plenty of width to make your daily life easier and more convenient.

Downsizing is not about giving up a big home for a small home. Downsizing is about finding the home that perfectly fits your needs. It is about choosing to live life more comfortably.

Making your Home Fit Your Needs

If you’re not wanting to move, there are options to make your current home more livable. One of the most challenging issues we face as we age are stairs. If your home has stairs throughout, start with the fewest number of stairs first. Consider replacing entry or hallway stairs with a ramp. Install handrails throughout the house for ease and support.

Installing a stair lift on a large staircase within your home can be a solution to staying in your home. Stair lifts are metal devices that are set on a track fit to the height and width of your stairs. The devices are often battery operated and have charging stations at both ends of the track so you do not have to worry about long cords or the battery dying while you are on the middle of the stairs

Stair lifts cost anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the type you get and the difficulty of installation. Consider asking your health insurance provider if they would cover any of the costs, and if not, look into getting a used one.

Whether you choose to move to a home that’s more suitable to your changing needs or to adapt your current home to be more comfortable, remember that you have the independence to choose how you want to live. According to a recent article in the Senior Citizens Journal, “Seniors live more healthy lives when they can be as independent as possible.” Exert your independence by choosing how comfortably and easily you want to live in your home.

Smart Technologies for Independent Aging

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According to a recent study by Harvard University, the number of people over the age of 65 is steadily increasing in the United States, which translates into a growing demand for accessible and affordable housing. “The housing implications of this surge in older adult populations are many and call for innovative approaches to respond to the growing need for housing that is affordable, accessible and linked to supporting services,” says managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Chris Herbert.

If you or a loved one are looking to stay in your home over time, one innovative approach to meet your needs as you age is implementing smart home technologies.

According to Patrick Roden, creator of aginginplace.com, new technologies are helping individuals and couples stay in their homes longer because technology assists in “maintaining safety, independence, health/wellness, social connections, and support systems.” For example, smart technologies allow you to turn on or off the lights, lock doors and monitor visitors, and even see the food inside your fridge and order groceries directly from your phone or tablet.

Smart homes simply give individuals the sense of being taken care of while staying in their own home.

Coldwell Banker recently posted an article outlining all the advantages of smart home technologies, and there are more than a few reasons to make the switch.

Saving Money

Smart technologies can save you money over time. For example, “Smart thermostats can reduce unnecessary cooling and heating expenses and smart lighting can help curb your energy consumption and reduce your electric bills,” writes Coldwell Banker’s Athena Snow. You may also consider solar panels, motion sensors, and power timers. You can even install a smart toilet, which can analyze daily output and provide information so you can avoid unneeded doctors’ visits and copays.

While initial installation may require an upfront cost, smart technologies can save money in the long run, whether it be from reduced utility bills or more efficient access to what you need when you need it.

Securing your Home

Smart technologies can provide you the safety and security you need while living at home. Smart devices can lock your doors or set automatic timers for them to be locked at certain hours of the day. Security cameras can be relayed to a smart device so you can have your eyes on every corner of your house or yard. Smoke alarms and other detectors can give you live notifications, even if you are not at home. Smart technology can provide comfort in allowing you to live safely and securely in your home, whether you need to watch over things from a vacation stay or from your own bed.

Aging in Place Smartly

As we and our loved ones age, it is not easy to give up our lifestyle and habits. However, by introducing smart technologies into our homes, we can save money, increase security, and continue to live comfortably and independently.

—Stephanie Bentley

Preparing Financially to Stay in Your Home

 

Photo Credit: Elaine, flickr.com

As we and our loved ones age, our physical and financial strength often diminish. The decision then must be made whether to stay in our homes or move to a place where we may be assisted by others when the need arises. The term used for people who want to live their lives out in their own homes is called ‘Aging in Place.’ As a matter of fact, there is a National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC). The NAIPC recently surveyed older adults, and 90 percent of them say they’d rather age in place than move to an assisted living facility.

While aging in place allows you or your elderly loved ones the blessing of staying in your home and neighborhood, it also comes with its challenges. One of the most pressing challenges for many is the cost. Following are a few areas you may wish to consider to ensure you and your loved ones are financially prepared to stay in your home.

The Cost to Age in Place

As the nation’s debt continues to climb, less money is being put into establishing the well-being of senior citizens. A recent article in Forbes recognizes the declining support of federal funds and encourages people to think outside of the box when it comes to financing aging in place. Specifically, the need to think now about how to prepare ourselves for later on.

Healthcare Costs

As healthcare costs rise and insurance coverage weakens, start focusing on maintaining good health now to reduce your costs later on. Age-friendly homes can reduce the chance or frequency of falls, which will decrease emergency room visits and doctor’s office bills. When a home is properly prepared for aging in place, there is a less likelihood of injury. And when injuries do occur, if the home is age-prepped, there is an easier and a quicker recovery.

Home Preparations

There are a few preparations that can be made now to age in place later. Handrails along steps, through hallways, or in the bathroom will help prevent falls. Add a ramp to your front or back entrance to avoid climbing up and down stairs. Consider adding extra lights to entryways, around steps, and throughout the house to prevent tripping. If little renovations are made over time, you will not have to worry about affording major home changes and their costs after retirement.

Financing the Rest of Your Life

As you or your loved ones prepare for the future, make sure you are prepared to handle all of life’s finances. Work on paying off the mortgage to avoid that large monthly bill. Look into investments, whether in real estate or stocks, as a means for income after retirement. Look into insurance options or save money to pay for healthcare out of pocket. By preparing now through home renovations or remodeling and finance and investment options, you can face the future knowing that you are adequately prepared to enjoy aging in place.

—Stephanie Bahr Bentley

Aging in Place

Seniors in swing, ceramicMoving from a well-loved family home is not always the preferred course of action. Many who are approaching retirement want to stay in their home or ‘age in place.’ There are numerous programs provided through the Administration on Aging and the Older Americans Act that aid homeowners as they age – allowing them to live independently in their home while providing transportation, meals, in-home care, and other services.

Aging in place does not always require government assistance, however. As the residents of a community age, the community becomes what is know as a ‘naturally occurring retirement community.’ The residents can form an association of sorts, where each member pays a monthly fee that contributes to various in-home services. The most popular of these services is transportation to grocery stores, medical appointments, and pharmacies.

The following article by John Van Gleson provides several examples of successfully run, self-formed associations that assist seniors who desire to age in place.

http://courses.learninglibrary.com/tllflash/Sres_Course_2/pdf/Article.pdf