A homeowner’s guide to caring for an Alzheimer’s patient

Guest Post By:  
*Hazel Bridges | AgingWellness.org

Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.7 million Americans, and about 5.2 million of those affected are seniors aged 65 or older. As the illness progresses, sufferers eventually lose the ability to care for themselves and need full-time supervision. Many families decide the best way to provide this type of support to their loved ones is by inviting them into their homes.

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Alzheimer’s causes a number of changes in the patient, including loss of balance, heightened sensitivity to temperature, memory loss, loss of judgment and becoming confused. These signs and symptoms, coupled with the unique needs presented by an aging body, call for a special home environment.

Ultimately, your goal is to create a home environment that caters to these four elements: safety, functionality, comfort and limited behavioral triggers for your loved one. Here are some modifications that you can undertake in your home to make it suitable for your loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

Kitchen
Complete kitchen remodels have a reputation for being really expensive -- after all, they cost some homeowners as much as $47,000 -- but you can make strategic, cost-effective updates to yours that will be hugely beneficial for your loved one. Install child-proof latches on cabinets that hold fragile and dangerous items such as glasses, knives and plates. Safety-proof your kitchen appliances. For instance, install safety knobs on the stove to protect your loved one. If you keep medication in the kitchen cabinet or drawer, ensure it is locked.

Bedroom
An Alzheimer’s patient’s bedroom is one of the places they will be spending a significant amount of time, so you will need to make it easily accessible.  Preferably, the bedroom should be on the ground floor where the patient won’t need to use stairs.

Place a lamp next to the bed and position light switches conveniently near the bed. You can use a baby monitor to help you keep track of their activity and movement. Make sure only the essential items are in the room, and remove the rest.

Bathroom
Your loved one should be able to easily and safely access the bathroom. Consider installing sturdy bars on the sides to prevent your loved one from falling. You may also place a stool in the bathroom that the patient can sit on as they shower.

Go for a single faucet that automatically mixes hot and cold water. Install a thermostat on the heating system to ensure water temperatures do not exceed safe limits. If your bathroom floor is slippery, install nonskid strips. Remove door locks on the bathroom door to prevent your loved one from locking themselves in accidentally.

Living room
While you do not have to completely give up your bright, eye-catching décor, a simplistic interior design is the best for your patient. Avoid using extremely bright colors, as they could overwhelm your loved one. Consider placing some nostalgic photos or your loved one’s beloved armchair into your living room to give them a sense of belonging in your home.  Fasten carpets and rugs on the floor.

Laundry room
Ideally, you should restrict access to the laundry room. If you can’t, at least put away hazardous cleaning products. Close the washer and dryer doors and lids, and disconnect the machines from their power sources whenever they’re not in use.

Outdoors
Restrict access to accident-prone areas in your backyard, such as your swimming pool. You may put a gate, pool cover and fence around it, and install an alarm that will go off any time someone crosses the barrier. Fence your backyard to keep your loved one from straying away from your home. Declutter the yard and remove any items that may cause slipping accidents, such as overgrown grass, pipes and debris. Make sure entrances, doorways and walkways are wide and adequately lit.

If you have placed potentially hazardous tools, items or products in the basement or garage, ensure that these areas remain locked. Cover and lock cars and bikes.

Caregiving can take an emotional, physical and financial toll on you. As much as you want to focus your attention on creating a conducive home environment for your loved one, the modifications you make will also be for your safety.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.