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MODIFICATION IDEAS FOR THE SAFE HOME...
BY Lydia Chan
Image via Pixabay
Home Safety Advice for Alzheimer's CaregiversProviding unpaid assistance to an adult loved one is an everyday reality for many. In fact, an estimated 39.8 million Americans had acted as unpaid caregivers sometime in the previous 12 months, according to the 2015 “Caregiving in the U.S.” report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Adults may need care due to short-term physical conditions or long-term physical issues that impact their ability to complete day-to-day tasks independently. Many also need assistance because of cognitive impairments related to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. For instance, 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, according to Redfin.
If you find yourself among this growing group of caregivers, you’ll probably soon realize some areas of your home aren’t ideal for accommodating an adult with Alzheimer’s disease and the other health issues that could come with it. The good news is that there are several modifications you can make on your own as well as some larger professional projects that could help make your home safer and more comfortable for any aging occupant.
Modifications You Can Make
People with Alzheimer’s can have balance issues, even in the disease’s early stages. So removing throw rugs and other trip hazards is an easy adjustment to make. If you have wood floors, use non-slip cleaners and wax when treating them, and test them for traction before your loved one walks on them.
Clear clutter, especially in areas where the person in your care will be frequenting. You should also invest in nightlights to illuminate the path between your loved one’s bedroom and bathroom to make it easier to navigate and minimize the chance he or she might become confused or disoriented in the dark. And remove the locks from the bedroom and bathroom door to prevent your loved one from being locked in during an emergency or other hazardous situation.
In fact, you should minimize hazards throughout your home by securing items like cleaning supplies, razors, and potentially dangerous kitchen appliances and utensils in locked cabinets. And don’t forget about items like medications or even vitamins. While you’re installing locks inside -- those designed for child safety may work for your purposes -- take a look at your exterior locks. You may need to move them to a spot that’s not easily accessible to reduce the chances your loved one will wander outside without supervision.
While preparing your home, you should collaborate closely with your loved one’s healthcare team since every Alzheimer’s patient is different and has varied safety needs. You might also want to find a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in your area. NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) created the certification in collaboration with aging advocacy groups to cater to the expanding group of consumers who will require home modifications to age in place comfortably and safely.
Some common modifications include installing grab bars in bathrooms and bedrooms, installing slip-resistant flooring in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas of the home, and widening doorways and kitchen pathways to make them more accessible for wheelchair users. If you have a substantial remodeling budget, you might also consider modifying a main-floor bath to make it more accessible for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, you could add a tub to an existing bathroom since many people with Alzheimer’s find taking a bath less off-putting and confusing than showering.
Making these DIY changes and bringing in remodeling pros to tackle bigger projects can make your home safer and more comfortable for the loved one in your care. Smart renovation projects could also pay off by helping you age in place in a home that suits everyone’s evolving needs.
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Deb Bokamper is a professional interior designer of the American Society of Interior Designers and has a Certified Aging in Place designation from the National Home Builders Association. She has over 25 years in the industry. Her purpose is interior design for all ages, at all life stages.