In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, many loved ones feel that assisted living is overkill. After all, your loved isn’t hurting herself or wandering off, she’s just finding everyday tasks a little harder and more confusing. But at the same time, you know living alone isn’t an option. It only takes forgetting the stove is on once to start a house fire, and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s only worsen with time. At this point in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, many families make the decision to move their loved one in — but that, too, has its challenges.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually diminishes a person’s cognitive function. Moving a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease into your home isn’t a decision you can make on a whim. Not only is caregiving challenging, but you’ll also need to adapt your home to the needs of your ailing parent.
Alzheimer’s disease affects the body and mind in many ways. It impairs coordination, makes it difficult to judge distance or locate objects in a room and can make shadows look like dark holes in the floor or wall. It causes anxiety and forgetfulness and leaves people unable to complete routine tasks they’ve done thousands of times before.
Caregivers can make their home a safer, less scary place for their loved one by accounting for these changes and adapting accordingly. These are some home modifications that Alzheimer’s disease caregivers should consider:
Adding an entrance ramp. Stairs pose a serious hazard to seniors with poor coordination and depth perception. Replace stairs to a main entrance with a ramp and equip it with railings and a non-slip surface. (If you need to bring in a professional, the average cost of installing a wheelchair ramp is between $3,500 and $8,000.)
Making staircases inaccessible. Indoors, keep your loved one away from staircases by using baby gates, installing locks above eye level, or painting doors to make them less noticeable.
Adding a first-floor bedroom. Make it possible for your loved one to live on the first floor by adding a bedroom or repurposing an existing room into a bedroom. Keep it close to a bathroom to combat incontinence.
Increasing lighting. Shadows can be challenging to visually process for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Bright and even overhead lighting paired with task lighting is preferable to lamps. If possible, install motion-activated lighting so your loved one doesn’t need to fumble for switches. If you want to add new fixtures, you’ll likely need to call an electrician (the average cost of installing electrical switches, outlets, and fixtures in New York is $188 - $543).
Creating contrast in the bathroom. Bathrooms tend to be decorated in pale hues, but a sea of light neutrals makes it hard for your loved one to navigate. Install a toilet seat in a contrasting color and add a bright-colored strip at the shower entrance. Use a tape measure to install grab bars 33 to 36 inches from the floor at the toilet and shower to prevent falls. (It generally costs $85 - $100 to hire a pro to install one grab bar.)
Adding child locks. People with Alzheimer’s disease tend to rummage through closets and cabinets. Use child locks to prevent unnecessary rummaging, but keep essential items in an accessible, organized cabinet.
Installing a security system. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, your loved one may try to wander from home. A security system that alerts you when exterior doors and windows are opened protects against unsupervised roaming.
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disorder, but by moving your loved one into your home, you can preserve her quality of life and surround her with love. Making these changes to your home does more than protect your loved one’s health and safety. It also gives you some peace of mind, which is an invaluable thing to have as a caregiver.
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