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

Photo by Patrick, flickr.com

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