Families who are caring for a loved one who is developing Alzheimer’s disease often pursue a transition into a memory care community. There are many details caregivers must consider when preparing a loved one’s home environment, ensuring it’s supportive and safe for this new way of life. Over time, as Alzheimer’s progresses, a senior’s cognitive abilities decline, which is why reliable and effective professional care is a necessity, but prior to the transition, there are still steps you can take to make their space more conducive for them. Keep reading to learn how you can turn your loved one’s home into a supportive living space.
First off, What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease has been named the most common form of dementia and is a condition that progresses over time. Initially, those with Alzheimer’s experience mild memory loss and, as the disease carries on, can lead to loss of ability to hold a conversation and respond to the surrounding environment. Alzheimer’s disease involves the part of the brain that controls a person’s thoughts, memory, and language capabilities. Over time, the disease can seriously impact an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Alzheimer’s is not considered a normal part of aging and is usually genetic. Unfortunately, there aren’t any known cures for this condition, but many medical management forms are available to improve a person’s quality of life. These medical management methods are utilized to:
- Maintain an individual’s mental functioning
- Assist in managing any behavioral symptoms
- Slow the progression and symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Eliminating Potential Hazards
Upon determining your loved one is developing Alzheimer’s, you’ll need to start modifying their home or apartment to limit access to hazardous areas and tools/equipment. These modifications are necessary because Alzheimer’s can alter your loved one’s judgment, which causes them to have trouble differentiating between safe and unsafe situations. It’s recommended to assess their living space and secure any areas where tools, chemicals, and other potentially harmful items are stored. Secure locks can also be installed on cabinets and doorknobs to prevent your loved one from accessing unsafe areas.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one will likely require more intensive care and supervision. Many families choose to move their loved ones into a memory care community so the individual can have 24/7 care. Memory care facilities offer various services and amenities, from on-site dining and housekeeping to transportation, fitness, and social activities, so your loved one can continue life as usual. Those that live in memory care facilities also usually have access to on-site nurses or licensed physicians and occupational, speech, and physical therapists.
A safety assessment of the person’s home must be completed as even regular home furnishings and electrical cords can put your loved one at risk. For example, rugs are viewed as a standard home decoration, but these pieces increase the chances of your loved one falling. Any electrical cords should be placed against walls or furniture to eliminate the likelihood of a fall. Alzheimer’s disease can cause vision complications like trouble with depth perception and distinguishing colors. It’s recommended to incorporate contrasting colors into your loved one’s home as this simple change will help them perceive space, depth, and navigate safely around their house or apartment.
Another serious concern for those with Alzheimer’s disease is the desire to wander. Wandering is extremely dangerous as many seniors with Alzheimer’s have trouble differentiating between safe and unsafe situations and can quickly become lost. Ensuring that exits are adequately controlled is a simple move to prevent wandering. However, a reliable and effective escape plan must be developed, so your loved one can exit quickly in the event of an emergency.
The bathroom of your loved one’s house or apartment can pose a unique challenge as many of these spaces are composed of hard, slick materials similar in color. Regular bathing can become a challenge as Alzheimer’s progresses, which is why making simple changes to your loved one’s bathroom is beneficial to increase feelings of safety and confidence. Like other areas of your loved one’s home, incorporating contrasting colors is also helpful so they can navigate the bathroom easily and maintain their independence as much as possible. A few items to consider adding to the bathroom of an aging adult’s house or apartment include, but are not limited to:
- Grab bars
- Non-skid mats
- Shower chairs
- Handheld showerheads
Many with Alzheimer’s experience sleep issues, which is why the bedroom of your loved one’s home must be inviting and comfortable to encourage quality rest. It’s possible that your loved one will develop a fear of the dark, so installing nightlights and other adequate lighting sources will help eliminate the chances of hallucinations and allow easy navigation for nighttime bathroom trips. As an individual ages, incontinence may arise, so taking proper preventative steps such as stocking extra linens, adding a waterproof mattress protector, and providing alternative toileting receptacles is necessary. Lastly, everyone appreciates privacy and providing this for your loved one is essential. Installing an intercom system, security monitor, or bell will help your loved one preserve their independence while giving them the tools to contact you for help when necessary. Below are a few details to focus on in your loved one’s bedroom to create a comfortable and safe living space:
- Adequate lighting
- Alternative toileting receptacle
- Waterproof mattress protector
- Security monitor or bell
Due to a person with Alzheimer’s trouble differentiating between safe and unsafe situations, their apartment or house’s kitchen poses many risks. Items that may pose a safety risk, such as knives, electrical appliances, and larger cooking appliances, should be stored or altered when not in use. It’s recommended to keep tabs on your loved one’s cognitive abilities as this will help you measure their capability to use kitchen appliances and distinguish fresh vs. rotten food. Many with Alzheimer’s have a dulled sense of smell, sight, and taste, making it difficult to judge the condition of perishable food items. Small step stools and ladders should be stored or removed altogether to prevent falls and injuries. There are many areas in your loved one’s kitchen that can be unsafe, and we’ve provided a few check-list items to account for:
- Secure knife storage
- Electrical appliance removal
- Refrigerator content maintenance
- Disable large cooking appliances
- Step stool and ladder removal
Home Life With Alzheimer’s
Learning your loved one is developing Alzheimer’s is life-changing, as the disease progresses, their cognitive abilities and risk interpretation decline. However, many resources are available to help you and your loved one navigate this new way of living. Thorough and effective planning and a regular routine are both priorities as daily life can be stressful for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Creating a safe and supportive living space for your loved one is important, but more often than not the best place for an older adult and their caregiver is in a memory care community.
Interested in learning how a memory care community can benefit you and your loved one? Contact the team at New Perspective to learn more.