Written by: Paul Denikin, Guest Contributor
Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenge. But there are a few things you can do at home to make day-to-day life a little easier on both you and your loved one. Here, we’ll look at a few home modifications and lifestyle changes that may ease the burden of care as you journey down this long and emotional road.
Accessibility and Safety
The following are some helpful home modifications that are especially necessary when it comes to help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:
Install outlet covers
Lower temperature on hot-water heater to less than 120 degrees
Add a ramp to the entrance of the home so your loved one does not have to navigate stairs
Install additional lighting throughout the home and especially in dimly lit areas
Install non-slip material on stairs, remove area rugs, and fix loose carpets
Replace light switches with oversized versions for ease of use (the average cost of hiring outlet, switch, and fixture services in the Tulsa area is $118 - $418)
Install a walk-in tub (base-level models range from $1,500 - $2,500) or transfer bench in the bathroom
Lower kitchen counters
Install safety grab bars in bath/shower (the average cost of installing one grab bar is $85 - $100)
Widen doorways to accommodate wheelchairs
Install a home security system with video monitors throughout the home
Replace doors with half (Dutch) doors to restrict access without sacrificing visibility in dangerous areas
Prevent wandering by adding child locks and alarms on exterior doors
There are numerous grants and special financing options to help you cover some or all of the costs of home modifications for your disabled family member. Also, it may be necessary to seek the help of a contractor to make specific modifications. Just be sure to do your research and get multiple quotes.
Depending on your loved one’s specific needs and abilities, he or she may also require other accommodations not listed. An occupational therapist may be able to help you identify changes to the home that will assist in daily care now and as your loved one’s condition worsens. The American Elder Care Research Organization reports that professional evaluation services may be covered by Medicare.
The following are some lifestyle changes you can make:
Ensure someone is available at all times
Remove potentially poisonous plants from the home
Remove wax fruits/items that resemble real food
Ensure gas grill is disconnected
Schedule refrigerator cleaning twice a week
Do not smoke in the home
Teach children to clean up toys when they are not using them
Restrict pet access to areas the senior may be alone
Evaluate home décor for safety; remove mirrors that might be misleading, cover sharp edges, remove low furniture (coffee table, end table, shoe rack, etc.)
Support and care services
In addition to changing your home and making alterations to your daily habits, you may also find yourself in need of support services for your loved one. These could include:
Home health aide – Home health aides may administer medicine and monitor temperature, respiration, and pulse. They will also assist seniors in daily activities, such as dressing and bathing.
Personal care aide – Personal care aides do not provide medical services but instead focus on household management tasks, such as light housekeeping and meal preparation. They serve as a companion and may provide transportation to and from a doctor’s office, grocery store, etc.
Private nursing care – A private care nurse provides more comprehensive medical care, including administering injections and managing chronic health conditions. An LPN, RN, or nursing assistant may assist with tube feedings and provide hospice care.
Counseling – Counseling services offer people with cognitive disorders as well as their families the chance to discuss their new circumstances. It will help patients learn to cope with grief and sadness as they slip further into the disease.
When changing your home or lifestyle, it’s important to remember that the goal isn’t to train seniors, but to enhance their quality of life. This is accomplished by looking out for their safety and providing opportunities for independent activities. As a caregiver, you only want what is best for your loved ones. Making small home modifications or altering your behavior can help ensure their well-being.