An Alzheimer’s diagnosis means many things, not the least of which is that the patient will, eventually, need 24/7 care. Here are a few ways to prepare your home now so it is a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment for your aging parent, sibling, or friend.
One of the most difficult obstacles to navigate for people in the 65+ crowd is stairs. Even those who are perfectly mobile may begin to experience spatial issues that affect their ability to judge height and distance. When possible, install a wheelchair ramp (the average cost is $1,200 to $2,400) or plan to enter your home via a ground-level door. If stairs are unavoidable, make sure they are clearly marked with reflective tape and that there is a stable handrail on at least one side.
Your loved one’s new bedroom should be as close as possible to what they’re used to. Not only are they dealing with a devastating medical diagnosis, but leaving one’s longtime home is a heart-wrenching experience. Allow them to keep familiar furniture as long as it doesn’t threaten their safety. Include a sturdy chair where your loved one can sit to dress and steady themselves if necessary. To prevent falls getting in and out of bed, ensure the mattress is between 20-23 inches from ground level. EasyRest.com further recommends using bedding and draperies that don’t drag the floor.
The NY Times reports that the bathroom is statistically the most dangerous room in the home, particularly for seniors over the age of 85. Sixty percent of all bathroom injuries are related to the tub or shower, with 31 percent of all injuries affecting the head and neck. To reduce your loved one’s risks in the bathroom, make sure the room is well lit, even at night. Add safety grab bars (installing a single bar should cost around $85) next to the toilet and in the bathtub or shower. As the condition progresses, it may be necessary to add safety locks on cabinets and closets that contain medication or dangerous chemicals. If you’re not able to do this work on your own, you can hire a handyman in Overland Park for the job. The typical cost of this work is between $131 and $545.
Kitchen and dining
Hot ovens, slippery floors, and sharp objects make the kitchen the second deadliest room and also the room we spend the most time in when we’re not sleeping. This means there is plenty of opportunity for lurking dangers to make themselves known. As your loved one's disease progresses, consider using visual aids to point out the location of important kitchen items, such as plates, cups, and silverware.
Make your living room cozy and comfortable by sticking with simple colors and patterns that won’t confuse the senses. Reduce clutter by incorporating functional pieces of furniture, such as a storage ottoman and open-front storage bin. Near the entry, ensure your loved one has a safe and stable place to sit and put on or remove their shoes. Nursing professionals from AllNursing.com also note that low-lying coffee tables, which are falling hazard, should be removed and that cords must be secure and out of the way.
In general, furniture that will be used by the elderly should be sturdy and well made. Chairs and sofas should offer plenty of support; avoid chaise lounges and other pieces that don’t have a supportive armrest. All rooms should be well lit with motion-sensor nightlights placed strategically to illuminate potential obstacles.
Moving an elderly loved one into your home is a challenge for all concerned. But by taking a few preventative measures to ensure everyone’s safety, you’ll learn to cope with Alzheimer’s as simply another part of your loved one’s life.