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
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