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Guest post by Lydia Chan of Alzheimerscaregiver.net
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. Here are some home improvement tips for those caring for an Alzheimer’s patient in their home.
First, recognize how Alzheimer’s changes a person. It affects the body, so balance and depth-perception issues can be a concern. But the main concern for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients is the loss of judgment and memory which can leave patients confused and suspicious or fearful. For instance, they may not remember where they are or how to use household appliances.
One of the first things that you can do to improve your home for Alzheimer’s patients is to remove tripping or falling hazards and add fixtures that assist them, such as grab bars in bathrooms and hand railings on both sides of stairs. Because of balance difficulties, patients tend to shuffle their feet rather than picking them up, so even deep-pile carpet or area rugs can be hard to walk on. If you think about a person in a wheelchair trying to navigate your home, you will notice things that might be difficult for Alzheimer’s patients as well. Stairs are a major concern because these patients also have trouble with depth perception. Making sure every room or hallway has bright lights and switches at every entrance can help. Remove door sills that are not flush with the flooring and avoid polished floors which may be slippery. Other simple improvements include replacing door and shower fixture knobs with pull handles that are easily gripped, and adding a shower seat.
Longer-term solutions include actually making your space wheelchair accessible, which includes widening doorways and adding a ramp at the door. Converting bathtubs into walk-in showers is also helpful. If you have stairs, make sure the steps are wide enough for an entire foot, and the surfaces are not slippery. Adding contrasting wood, carpet, or paint colors can aid in seeing individual steps more clearly. You might also consider adding a stair lift if the patient will need to traverse the stairs regularly. Check all flooring for slippery surfaces and consider replacing tile or polished wood with low-pile carpet or new flooring with low-slip ratings.
Adding recessed lighting under kitchen cabinets can help everyone see better, and adding large-print directions or brightly colored splashes of nail polish by the main buttons on the microwave or stove can help Alzheimer’s patients easily find the settings they want to use. Eventually, you will probably want to keep patients on the first floor of your home so they won’t have to go up and down stairs. A private bathroom should also be included. Adding a life alert system that monitors them and keeping safety alert numbers in a conspicuous place for them or other caregivers to use, if necessary, can be a great assistance in case of emergency.
There are many things to think about when you’re the caregiver of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. When caring for patients, it’s essential that they can navigate safely. You cannot plan for every emergency, but you can prepare your home for the majority of issues that Alzheimer’s brings. Having your loved one with you in your home will make you both feel better.