Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that affects brain cells. The effects of Alzheimer’s manifest in a variety of ways, and it touches the lives of the person diagnosed and the surrounding family. Millions of Americans have seen the symptoms of the condition on loved ones and find themselves suddenly faced with the challenge of providing care.
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. As The New York Times writes, caregiving is a journey that is physically and emotionally demanding; thus, preparation is the best fortification.
What to Expect
Alzheimer’s disease advances in stages, and each stage brings with it new changes and challenges. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as a caregiver, you can expect three major stages: early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage Alzheimer’s. In the early stages, there is still plenty of planning that can be done, but care becomes more involved as the disease runs its course. As it progresses, expect to see signs of:
- Memory loss, confusion, and disorientation
- Easy triggers of anxiety
- Decreased mobility and balance
How to Accommodate
When bringing in loved ones with Alzheimer’s into your home, consider the different stages and how you might modify your home to make them as comfortable and safe as possible. Alzheimer’s patients are different and thus have unique needs, but you can keep in mind a few major changes, including the following:
- Keep familiar objects: Because of the damage in the brain, confusion gets worse as the disease advances. Keeping familiar objects in their room can help provide some comfort.
- Use signs: Consider placing big colorful signs on the bathroom or bedroom door. This will help loved ones navigate around the house.
- Reduce noise: Due to the progressing confusion, reducing noise and overstimulation can help keep them calm and avoid unnecessary anxiety.
- Atmosphere: Play their favorite music and keep objects and furniture they are familiar with to make them feel at home.
- Reduce behavioral triggers: Next Avenue suggests assessing and reducing possible triggers that will cause agitation and anger in Alzheimer’s patients. As your loved one interacts with the home, keep an eye out for things that cause anxiety and remove them.
There are common and often simple modifications that can be done to your home to help make the stay easier and more convenient for everyone. These home modifications will ensure there are basic safety precautions being considered, as well as increase functionality and adaptability. The National Institute of Aging provides a thorough checklist to get started.
Bathroom: These are accident-prone places where extra care is needed. Some tips include:
- Removing locks
- Installing grab bars and handrails
- Adding a raised toilet seat
- Using plastic shower stool
Kitchen: The kitchen can be dangerous because of appliances and chemicals. You should:
- Lock up dangerous household cleaning products or chemicals, as well as prescription drugs
- Install door latches
- Install safety knobs and an automatic shut-off switch on the stove
Around the house: Considerations around the house, in hallways, and bedrooms can also help in ensuring as much safety as possible. Do your best to:
- Remove any objects or hazards along hallways or pathways, like extension cords or furniture, that might cause falling
- Keep rooms and hallways well lit
- Consider handrails along other pathways
- Lock up all weapons and guns
- Avoid accumulating clutter which can cause confusion
- Make their bedroom quiet, cozy, and familiar
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s requires much time and patience and constant adaptation and care, but it can be made easier by preparing the home for some of the common symptoms. Taking some of these precautions will increase the safety and comfort of your loved one, and it will ease the hard work and give you some peace of mind.
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