What changes should be made to create a safer home for a person with Alzheimer's disease?
Because activities of daily living — including eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and using the toilet — can become more difficult for people with Alzheimer's disease, it's important to modify the environment to make it as easy as possible for the person with Alzheimer's disease to live and function.
- Have emergency numbers (police, fire, poison control, and a neighbor's phone number) readily available in case of emergency. Suggestion: write these numbers on a sticker and put it on the receiver.
- Have at least one phone located where it is always accessible. Suggestion: keep a cordless phone or cell phone in your pocket. This is especially important if you fall and can't get up to use the phone.
- Make sure smoke detectors work properly.
- Avoid the use of space heaters and electric blankets; these are fire hazards.
- Consider installing a medical alert or personal alarm system for emergencies. Professional systems link directly to a representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a person has an immediate medical problem, he or she simply pushes a button on a special device worn around the wrist or neck, and a signal for help is immediately sent.
- Take a photo of your loved one that could be used if he or she were to wander.
A careful evaluation of the home, especially the physical layout and the services that will be available to the person for support, is essential. Things that should be evaluated include safe use of the stove or oven and bathroom/bathtub or shower use. A full home safety evaluation can be performed by therapists and social service workers who are professionally trained to look for potential hazards.
- Bathroom: The bathroom can be a dangerous place for a person with Alzheimer's disease. As the person's ability to function decreases, it may become necessary to install grab bars in the shower or fold-down shower seats. Also, be sure to use non-slip floor mats and slip-resistant appliqués or tiles in the shower or tub.
- Furniture: Simplify furniture arrangements. Make it as easy as possible for the person with Alzheimer's disease to navigate a room and get from point A to point B. Move or remove objects, such as a loose throw rug, that could be a tripping hazard.
- Lighting: Be sure there is sufficient lighting. As people get older, they require two to three times the amount of light they needed when they were younger. Add the confusion associated with Alzheimer's disease, and you can understand how important it is to have enough light. However, too much light, especially when it causes glare, can be distracting and irritating.
Research suggests that even mild Alzheimer's disease is associated with an increased risk of accidents. It is important to check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to learn the procedure for evaluating the patient's driving ability. Many areas will perform a thorough "driver safety evaluation" to determine whether it is safe for the person to continue driving. If there is any impairment noted in visual or spatial abilities or judgment, the person with Alzheimer's disease should not be driving.
- Make your environment as comfortable and as pleasing as possible.
- Use colors you find soothing to decorate. Use fragrances that relax you.
- Keep photos and music around that uplift your spirit.
- If you find you would like company during the day, consider a pet such as a dog, bird, a fish, or a cat. If you are concerned about the pet's daily care, surround yourself with plants or flowers.
- Make sure the temperature and climate are suitable to your sensitivities. The more comfortable and uplifting your environment is, the more positive your attitude will be.
By maintaining a high quality of life and a positive attitude, your diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease will be more manageable.