Now that your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease has progressed, it is no longer safe for them to live alone, so you’ve opened your doors.
However, this is more than adding another member to the household. Alzheimer’s disease comes with its own set of complexities that you will need to prepare your home for so that your loved can continue to live safely and happily.
Assess your home.
Alzheimer’s and dementia affect each individually differently, but in general it causes memory loss, confusion, personality/mood changes, and issues carrying out daily activities that were once second nature.
For this reason, your home can quickly become an unfamiliar place, and adding age as a factor, safety is compromised. Before you bring your loved one in to stay, do a thorough walkthrough of your home and address any and all safety issues both present and in the future.
Alzheimer’s progresses at varying rates, which can result in drastic changes from one day to the next, so it is better to be prepared now.
Start by safe-proofing the two main areas in your home: the kitchen and bathroom.
In the kitchen, make sure all hazardous items such as cleaning supplies, matches, cutting utensils, and complex appliances are stored away using safety latches, and consider restricting access to the stove without your supervision using safety knobs.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous areas in your home is the bathroom, as it poses the greatest risk for slips and falls whether due to mobility issues or confusion.
According to ImproveNet, the average cost to remodel a bathroom is $8,820, but there are small adjustments you can make that make a huge difference such as installing shower/bathtub/toilet grab bars, removing slipping hazards, and removing locks to avoid accidental lock-ins.
Your entire home should be addressed, and AARP has a great guide to help you do so and give yourself the peace of mind that your loved one is entering into a safe living environment.
Prepare for different symptoms.
Two of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are wandering and sundowning, so it is important that you take extra care to prepare yourself and your home.
Alzheimer’s can turn familiar surroundings into a foreign environment, and confusion only exacerbates the situation. For example, your loved one may drive to the store every week or walk around the neighbourhood, but suddenly they can’t remember how to get back home.
Wandering can be fatal if they are not found in a timely manner, so take precautions to avoid it in the first place such as installing locks and alarms, implementing tracking devices, hiding car keys, and even installing video surveillance. It is also a good idea to purchase an ID bracelet for your loved one so that others know who to call should your loved one manage to slip away.
Sundowning is another common symptom, and it gets its name from the fact that it often occurs late in the day.
In mid-stage and advanced Alzheimer’s patients, sundowning is especially prominent, causing agitation, frustration, confusion, and anger. Reduce the frustration by creating a routine to help them feel calm and in control.
Often times, those who have symptoms of sundowning have issues falling asleep at night, furthering the feelings of restlessness and agitation.
Involve your loved one in small activities throughout the day such as walking or light exercise so that they are tired once bedtime arrives. Make note of any activities or situations that trigger their symptoms, and adjust accordingly.
It can be hard to see a loved one progressing through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, you can take heart knowing that your home is a source of comfort, peace, and safety for them. By making adjustments to your home to meet their changing needs, and preparing yourself for the symptoms that come along with their disease, you can tackle this caregiving role head on.
Submitted by Lisa Gonzalez