Guest article by Paul Denikin, dadknowsdiy.com
Taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a noble task. You dedicate the bulk of your time and energy to your loved one, making sure he or she stays safe and comfortable. Ensuring your home is equipped to assist you in these tasks is a must, so you need to be prepared to make home modifications to accommodate your loved one.
1. General Safety Modifications
Safety modifications to your home will ease some of the burden and help your loved one remain as independent and safe as possible. Because the disease affects people differently, you should focus on general safety modifications and then make other adaptations as necessary to fit your loved one’s needs. Some of the modifications may be completed by you, while others will require the expertise of a contractor.
To ensure the safety of your loved one with Alzheimer’s, keep in mind that people with the disease and other types of dementia are at an increased risk of falling. Thus, taking steps to prevent falls in your home is a must.
Begin by having a medical professional check your loved one’s vision regularly. Then, remove clutter and make sure your loved one can maneuver easily throughout your home. Remove throw rugs that pose tripping hazards or secure them with carpet tape. Repair loose carpet or floorboards. Add nightlights to stairways, hallways, and other dark areas of your home.
Keep in mind that there are some grants and financial assistance available for caregivers making home modifications to accommodate a loved one with Alzheimer’s. You may find federal, state, and county grants that apply to your situation. Local charities and community organizations often offer financial assistance for home modifications for individuals with disabilities. They also tend to hold fundraisers or provide free labor to make those modifications more manageable. You also could reach out to your local government, the Access Home Modification Program, or the Center for Accessible Housing for more information on grants and loans.
2. Prevent Wandering
Some of the most helpful safety modifications involve preventing your loved one from wandering. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that six in 10 people with dementia wander. One of the first things you should do is disable automatic locks on storm doors, screen doors, exterior doors, and gates so that your loved one does not get locked out. Remember to place a spare key outside in case your loved one locks out everyone.
If your loved one is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, you need to be proactive in preventing wandering. Install childproof locks on your doors to prevent him or her from leaving home. Hire a contractor to fence in your yard to prevent your loved one from wandering too far. If you have a swimming pool, lock the fence and install alarms on the gate to alert you when someone is inside the swimming area.
Also, install alarms or buzzers on your exterior doors so you will know when your loved one attempts to leave. Install safety locks on first-floor windows and safety bars on windows on the upper levels of your home. Install motion detectors that will alert you when your loved one wanders at night. Many caregivers also purchase GPS bracelets for loved ones to help locate them should they wander too far from home. For suggestions on location devices for dementia patients, check out this list from Alzheimers.net.
3. Prepare to Accommodate Additional Helpers
Even if you are the primary caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, you will not be able to do it alone. You will need to make sure that you have set aside an area of your home for additional helpers, whether they are other family members, therapists, or home care providers.
Turn a home office into a guest room or place a cot in your loved one’s room. There are several ancillary care options to assist you in caring for your loved one, and some of them are covered, at least in part, by Medicare or long-term insurance policies. Contact your loved one’s insurance provider to learn more about in-home care options.
Making modifications to your home will help you provide better care for your loved one. Focus on making general safety modifications and preventing wandering. Also, be prepared to accommodate additional helpers.