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Tips and Advice for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
by Guest Blogger, Hal Salazar of Elders.today
As of 2020, there were more than 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and that number is only expected to grow. Many of these people suffer with its most severe form, Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients will require significant care in an around-the-clock setting. Often, however, when a loved one is in the earlier stages of AD, families will try to bring a loved one into their home first.
If you plan to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in your home, there are various preparations you’ll have to make. These preparations don’t just have to do with your house itself, you’ll also need to prepare yourself emotionally for the endeavor you’re about to take on. Watching someone you love slowly succumb to such a disease is difficult, but being there for them is both noble and important.
Knowing Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
People struggling with Alzheimer’s disease experience symptoms including:
- Both short and long-term memory loss
- Cognitive troubles and problems concentrating
- Struggles when it comes to making decisions
- Forgetting how to complete tasks that necessitate sequential steps (for example, brushing their teeth)
- Personality changes
- Confusion regarding time, people, and places.
Preparing Your Home for Alzheimer’s Caregiving
Alzheimer’s disease only gets worse with time, so people with Alzheimer’s require care day and night. To help prepare for this, you may find that modifications around the house are necessary. Creating a safe environment for an Alzheimer’s patient can prevent accidents and injuries.
- If your home has stairs or steps in areas where your loved one will be, install ramps over the steps. While you may think ramps are only necessary if they are in a wheelchair, the truth is that navigating stairs can be difficult as their motor skills deteriorate.
- It’s important that your loved one has a room of their own where they can enjoy their privacy in comfort. The room should be on the first floor with direct access to a bathroom. To keep them safe, avoid furniture and decorations that have sharp edges. You should also avoid things made out of dangerous materials like glass. To help them navigate their way to the bathroom at night, install night lights that lead the way. According to the National Center for Health Research, light is important for your loved one with Alzheimer’s– “exposure to light during the day may improve life for people with the condition.”
- The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Keep your loved one safe by making modifications that make it easier for them to complete their personal grooming. The shower or tub needs a bench and safety rails they can hold on to. Mark all the faucets with large, color coded labels so they can’t confuse hot and cold, and be sure to adjust your water temperature settings with an anti-scald valve. While it may be convenient to store cleaning supplies in the bathroom, you don’t want hazardous chemicals within reach, so find another spot for harsh cleaners and bleach products.
- Often, people with Alzheimer’s have a tendency to wander, and this can be scary for them if they find themselves in an unfamiliar place as well as the family. If you anticipate this being an issue, or if you want to get ahead of it, consider having a fence built around your backyard. A quick online search for “fence contractors near me” will yield a list of reputable and top-rated pros who can easily build a fence according to your specifications and material preferences.
Considering the Future
If you intend to make numerous updates to your home to accommodate your loved one, particularly upgrades that could boost your home’s value, it’s important to document all of the changes and to file those away in the event that you sell your home. Accessible-friendly homes are a big draw for more people these days, so it’s likely you could see a higher listing price that correlates with your updates.
Caring for a loved one with AD is an incredibly noble and selfless act. And it can feel good to be of service to someone you care about. Bear in mind, however, that caregiving comes with a hefty share of challenges. When you don’t have an accompanying self-care plan for yourself, you open the door to burnout and deep unhappiness. This is when it’s critical to be proactive. Plan for off days to have someone else care for your loved one, aim to get plenty of rest and daily exercise, and stick to healthy eating. While you may have days where this isn’t possible, making these acts a priority will help.
Make a point to also look for support whether it’s from a group, the rest of your family or even a trained psychologist like Dr. Mara Karpel. Note that Dr. Karpel offers caregiver advice in her blogs and on her internet radio show and she has written the best seller The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality and Joy at Any Age.
Taking in a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is an incredibly compassionate thing to do. When preparing your home for their arrival, it’s important to create a safe environment that minimizes potential for accidents and injury. Things we take for granted like walking up and down stairs or going to the bathroom can be dangerous for someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s symptoms. Protect their well being by safeguarding your home before their arrival.