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How to Change Your Home to Better Manage Alzheimer’s

By Lydia Chan | April 17th, 2019

Any person who looks after an ailing loved one is likely under a great deal of stress, but surveys indicate that Alzheimer’s caretakers experience an even greater physical and emotional toll. Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is extremely time-consuming and this may include 40-plus hours of constant care per week. Not only does it take a toll on family life, but it also knocks the wind out of the sails of the person administering the care. If you find yourself in the position of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, there are steps you can take to modify your home so it’s easier on both you and your loved one. You’ll also want to look into options for getting outside help so you can be at your best when you’re in charge.

Alzheimer’s Home Care Modifications

 Memory loss, confusion, violent outbursts, misplacing things, difficulty speaking and/or writing, poor judgment, withdrawal, poor vision, and mood swings are all typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Before doing a thorough walk-through of your home, talk to your loved one’s health care provider about what modifications would be most beneficial. Note that you may need to administer more or different modifications as the disease progresses. Here are some of the top modifications:

  • Replace entryway stairs with a ramp—either premade by a manufacturer or DIY.
  • Make sure the house is well illuminated to combat vision issues. Iluminate all stairs and common areas with nightlights to avoid tripping.
  • If stairs are an issue, consider an electric chair lift.
  • Get a tape measure to check the width of the doorways to see if they are wheelchair friendly. You may need to install collapsible hinges to provide more clearance.
  • Install grab bars in the hallways and bathroom area.
  • Install smoke detectors and remove stove dials for fire safety.
  • Lower hot water temperature to avoid scalding.
  • Block stairs and other hazardous areas with safety gates.
  • Improve lighting in areas such as halls and install nightlights where needed to light areas such as bathrooms, bedrooms, and other areas used at night.
  • Use safety locks to lock up sharp objects, chemicals, medications, etc.
  • Prevent wandering by installing a fence with a locking gate and an alarm that will alert you when someone exits any of the doors.

An occupational therapist can do a walk-through of your home and assess it for a dementia patient’s needs.

Ancillary Care Options

Ancillary care is a form of assistance that handles heavy-weight tasks such as diagnostic care, therapeutic care (think rehab and massage), and sourcing long-term care facilities like hospice and nursing facilities. As the disease progresses, this type of assistance can’t be avoided as it requires the expertise and know-how of a professional. Your doctor should be able to refer you to services you may need as the disease progresses.

Financial Considerations for Alzheimer’s Home Care

Paying for care such as home modifications can be extremely costly. Don’t pay everything out of pocket until you check if you qualify for a grant. Note that some grants only cover specific modifications, so you may have to apply for more than one—a small price to pay in comparison to taking on the entire financial burden yourself.

Self-Care for Caregivers

Even if you think you don’t have any time left in the day, make sure you’re executing self-care, too. Try scheduling it in like you would a doctor appointment in an effort to stay on task. Caregiver burnout is real, and without taking the time to get proper rest and nutrition, engage in social time with friends or your spouse, maintain personal grooming habits, and find moments of peace, you won’t be able to properly take care of your loved one—and you also put yourself at a higher risk of illness.

[ Next: As Dementia Costs Rise, States Push for Caregiver Tax Credits ]

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