Transforming a home into a safe environment for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be very difficult. It’s hard to anticipate problems and see your home through the eyes of someone who has dementia, whose condition causes them to see the world differently than you do. You have to identify every possible physical danger to protect someone who has that level of impaired judgment, memory, and cognitive abilities. Objects that were once harmless now pose a lethal threat and must be removed or modified.
Fortunately, there are many alterations you can make that will not only assure your home considerably safer, but also make your job as a caregiver significantly easier as well. If you’d like personal advice, reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for their input, specifically in regards to recommendations of an expert who can visit and provide tips on how to make your home safer for your family member.
Begin with a thorough inspection of your entire house, looking at each room with a renewed sense of safety. Remember that an individual with dementia suffers from diminished depth perception, balance, judgment and ability to understand and follow instructions. Make modifications on the side of caution because an Alzheimer’s patient is capable to make unsound decisions that can lead to a serious accident.
If your house has exterior stairs, outline the edge of each step with glow-in-the-dark tape to minimize the likelihood of a missed step. If there are uneven flagstones or bricks, or cracked and jagged pavement, make repairs so that everything is level with the ground. One hard-to-see imperfection can lead to a dangerous fall on a hard surface. Walkways and the driveway should always be kept clear of any loose objects; no bicycles, skateboards, balls or lawn decorations. Having to maneuver around objects makes it considerably more difficult for your care subject to navigate safely. Dementia impairs the ability to differentiate between genuine threats to one’s safety and non-threatening objects. Install a motion-activated exterior light for clear vision and to ensure that your loved one won’t mistake something innocuous, like a bush or small tree, as a dangerous person or animal.
Look at your home’s interior with a fresh eye. If there’s any decorative wallpaper, it could contribute to an Alzheimer’s patient’s confusion. So can a large hall mirror, which can produce confusing reflections. Consider removing them and keeping your hallways and interior walls as uncluttered as possible. Declutter all rooms thoroughly, particularly the bathroom, kitchen and your care subject’s bedroom. The more stimuli they have to contend with, the harder they’ll find it to get around safely. Stairways and hallways should be well-lit. Install sensor-activated night lights to aid visual recognition.
Bathrooms are especially dangerous. Remove door locks, and be sure there are non-skid mats placed on the floor and in the shower or tub, which should include a shower chair. Consider installing a new shower stall with no step-over threshold; make sure you have quality, dependable tools for any modification. Install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet, and put in a ground fault circuit interrupter to shut off outlets if they get wet. Always put away all medications and cleaning fluids and install child safety locks.
Remove the lock from your care subject’s bedroom door and install a video or audio monitor so you can determine if there’s a problem. Keep other bedroom doors locked so your family member can’t access potentially dangerous objects without your knowledge.
Home modifications can be expensive, depending on the severity of your relative’s condition. A new shower stall or an exterior entry ramp can be an expensive upgrade. Investigate your options if you require financial assistance from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, the Alzheimer’s Association or Hilarity for Charity. A life insurance settlement could be considered as an option because selling a policy can provide funds for assistance with daily living needs.
Assess each part of your property if you’ll be caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms. Try to recognize problems that could arise with an individual who’s easily confused, frightened and disoriented. Make all necessary modifications and seek financial assistance if needed.
For more information please contact us at your nearest Pacifica community.
June is the primary caregiver to her 85-year-old mom and the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is passionate about helping and supporting other caregivers and is currently writing a book titled, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers, due out in Winter 2018.