Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top conditions in the United States that prompts a loved one to become an unpaid caretaker. This is no surprise given the large number of individuals who are diagnosed each year. According to Redfin, “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.” But before doing so, you’ve got to make sure your living environment is conducive to the side effects that come with the disease so that there aren’t any issues with safety or discomfort. Here’s how to get started.
Have The Right Tools
Many of the projects you’ll need to complete are DIY, so make sure you have the proper tools to get the job done. Some basics include a tape measure, cordless drill, hammer, flashlight, pliers, saw, screwdriver, and sandpaper. Don’t tackle a project unless you’re 100 percent confident you can complete it without injuring yourself or causing costly damage. Implement safety tactics such as avoiding loose-fitting clothing, wearing safety goggles, unplugging power tools when not in use, adopting the four-to-one ladder placement rule (unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury mortality in the U.S.), and being aware of your surroundings.
The modifications you make are likely to change over time as the disease progresses, so be prepared physically and financially to make updates. For example, early signs may be loss of memory, but more advanced issues could be the inability to speak, walk, and control one’s bladder.
Install a ramp on the exterior of the home to help your loved one get in and out with ease. While you can hire a pro for this project, it’s not too difficult to build one yourself. Just make sure there are two landings — one at the top and one at the bottom of the ramp — and railings on both sides. Use a material that’s textured and reflective to prevent slipping.
If possible, provide your loved one with a bedroom on the bottom floor. Since incontinence issues are not uncommon, it’s best if it’s near a bathroom. Make sure the room is clutter-free to avoid trips and falls (this includes low furniture) and that shelving is accessible. Avoid furniture with sharp corners unless you plan on covering them with bumpers. In terms of flooring, low-pile carpeting is best. While you don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy, removing the lock on the door can prevent someone with Alzheimer’s from accidentally locking themselves in. If they use a wheelchair, replace traditional door hinges with expandable ones to provide more width.
The bathroom should be well-lit (including the path from the bedroom) and outfitted with safety rails in the shower/bath and near the toilet — get a raised seat so it’s easier for your loved one to get up and down. Transfer or shower seats as well as slip-resistant mats can make bathing safer and less intimidating. Make hand washing easier by installing a single lever faucet — just remember to clearly mark which direction is hot and which is cold. Lock up any medications, razors, cleaning supplies, and any other potentially harmful toiletries.
The kitchen can be a breeding ground for injury, so place a child safety lock on the knife drawer and supply cabinet, and stow away any dangerous appliances like a food processor. To prevent confusion, affix a labeled photograph of the contents of each drawer and cabinet so it can be easier to find things — this is a good general rule of thumb for every room.
If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for the renovations, be sure to explore all financing options before getting started. The most common choices include Medicare and Medicaid, Alzheimer’s care loans, non-profits and foundation assistance, respite care, state assistance, reverse mortgages, veterans assistance, and life insurance conversions. Creating a budget can help you stay on track and determine a strategic plan of action.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Author: Lydia Chan