Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s includes preparing for some unique challenges that other caregivers do not face, simply because of the nature of the disease. To provide better care for your loved one, you need to know how the symptoms of Alzheimer’s alter her abilities and needs. Armed with this knowledge, you can make home modifications and improvements to make caring for your loved one and ensuring her safety easier.
1. Safety Improvements
Safety is the number one priority for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. When making safety improvements, remember that Alzheimer’s will affect your loved one’s judgment and she eventually will be unable to recognize dangers. Thus, approach safety improvements as preventive measures, much as you would when baby-proofing.
First, make sure that you securely store all medications, cleaning supplies, and chemicals. Install locking medicine cabinets in your bathrooms and put childproof locks on cabinets containing cleaning supplies. Keep chemicals in the garage in a locked cabinet. Also, keep lighters, matches, and other items capable of starting fires in a locked location.
Each year, about 33 percent of adults over the age of 65 suffer a fall, and those who do are more likely to fall again within six months. As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, she will become more unsteady on her feet. That’s why one of the most important safety improvements you should make is eliminating potential falls. Start by evaluating each room for tripping hazards like trailing extension cords, loose throw rugs, loose carpeting, uneven floorboards, or clutter.
Push extension cords against a wall or shorten them if possible. Secure throw rugs with carpet tape and hire a professional to repair loose carpeting or uneven floorboards. Remove clutter by rearranging furniture to make walking paths, donating items you no longer need, and making sure everything in your home is in its proper place.
You also can prevent falls by installing railings on both sides of stairways and grab bars near toilets, inside bathtubs, and beside showers. Check out these tips from The Family Handyman for installing bathroom grab bars. The sooner you put these safety measures in place, the sooner your loved one will get in the habit of using them so she will be accustomed to doing so when she needs to.
2. Functional Improvements
To help your loved one with Alzheimer’s remain as active and independent as possible, make improvements to your home’s functionality. Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty recognizing areas of the home, and their vision changes as they age, so add contrasting colors wherever you can. For example, paint the wall behind the toilet a dark color so the toilet stands out. Replace hardware on kitchen cabinets that contrasts with the cabinet faces.
It’s also helpful to highlight important visual elements with contrasting colors, so consider installing doors that contrast with the wall, using contrasting throw rugs, purchasing chairs that contrast with floors, and using table settings that contrast with the color of your table. Finally, add tape strips in contrasting colors to stair edges to help your loved one see where each step begins.
3. Lighting Improvements
Because Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty with their eyesight, it’s a good idea for you to make lighting improvements throughout your home with special attention to areas where she spends time working and where there are shadows or darkness. For example, if your loved one enjoys sitting in her favorite chair, place it in front of a window so the light shines from behind to reduce glares.
If she helps in the kitchen, ensure you have adequate lighting in work areas by installing extra lights under cabinets or an overhead fixture featuring several adjustable lights so you can guide the light where your loved one needs it most. DIY Network shares a few tips for adding lighting to your kitchen without breaking your budget.
You can put your mind at ease and provide better care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s if you make safety improvements to your home as soon as possible. You also should help her remain independent by making functional improvements. Finally, make lighting improvements to support her changing eyesight.
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