Get Your Home Ready To Welcome Your Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Thursday Feb 22nd, 2018


Chances are, someone you know, or love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The disease is a progressive brain disease that causes a loss of memory and cognition, and there is no cure. Every person’s symptoms differ, so if you know someone who may have it, get them to a neurologist to be sure.

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’re planning to take a loved one into your home to become his or her Alzheimer’s caregiver, you should understand that there are some things to prepare for, in your own life, as well as your home. Alzheimer’s patients, depending on the stage of their disease, have special needs that a normal home might not be ready for. With just a few extra steps, you can make your home a safe place for a person with the disease.

First, make your home as safe as possible. People with Alzheimer’s can often seem like small children, and preparing your home is not unlike preparing for a toddler -- except that this person can reach a lot higher. Take the knobs off your stove or add child-locks to them. Add extra locks to your outside doors so that he or she can’t wander off and consider getting an alarm installed so that you’ll be awakened if he or she decides to take a walk in the middle of the night. Get child locks on cabinet and drawers and lock away all chemicals such as cleaners.

Consider locking up areas such as garages, basements and attics, or anywhere that dangerous tools might be kept. Make sure all weapons and anything that can be used as a weapon is locked up or removed from the home. People with Alzheimer’s can sometimes confuse a trusted family member with an intruder, making a weapon a dangerous thing to have in the home.

Clear walkways and add nightlights to anywhere he or she might walk at night. Remove locks from interior doors so that he or she can’t lock themselves into a room. Reassure them that you and other family members won’t invade his or her privacy, but that you want them to be safe.

Make sure that all decorative fruits are put away, because a person with Alzheimer’s might not understand that it’s not real. Make sure that your smoke detectors have good batteries in them, and that you have working fire extinguishers.

In the bathroom, install an elevated toilet seat or a higher-sitting toilet. Add a shower seat to reduce the risk of falls and turn down the temperature on the water heater to prevent scalding. Hide any electrical appliances, such as hair straighteners or dryers, so that he or she can’t drop it into water. Put all medications into a locked drawer. Be careful of slippery bath mats.

You may need to build ramps so that he or she can navigate stairs. Even if your loved one doesn’t use a wheelchair, stairs can be difficult for those who are elderly and have trouble with balance. And a day may come when the wheelchair becomes a necessity.

While caring for your loved one, don’t forget to care for yourself. Being a caregiver is extremely stressful, and can cause depression, anxiety, and health issues. But, remember also to spend time with him or her. You’ll appreciate the time you have together, and you’ll notice some bright spots along the way.

 Lydia Chan 

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