Alzheimer’s Care: When it’s Time and How to Prepare

If you’ve noticed your parent or grandparent suddenly seems unaware of his surroundings, has given up on personal hygiene, or appears unfamiliar with close relatives, Alzheimer’s disease may be the culprit. This terminal condition progresses over time and almost always results in the sufferer requiring direct care. Read on for more information about Alzheimer’s including early warning signs and ways to prepare your home for its newest resident.

Alzheimer’s stats and facts

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 46 million people worldwide; 5 million of these are Americans. It is estimated, according to USAgainstAlzheimers.org, that one in nine senior citizens suffers some form of dementia. It costs approximately $215,000 over the course of the disease’s lifespan, which averages eight to 10 years after diagnosis, to provide care for someone with the disease. Women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twice as often as men. There is currently no cure.

Signs of advancing decline

In the very early stages, Alzheimer’s disease may simply present as forgetfulness. The Johns Hopkins Health Library lists impaired memory, restlessness, confusion, and impaired communication as other common indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. As the condition advances, the sufferer may seem perpetually aggravated and present with emotional apathy. Other warning signs include sudden and drastic changes in mood, personality or behavior, and inability to perform familiar tasks. Most people with Alzheimer’s will require around-the-clock supervision when they can no longer live both safely and independently.

How to prepare your home

Your loved one’s abilities will be unique to them; not all sufferers share the same symptoms. But there are a few simple home modifications that will benefit seniors regardless of which stage of the disease they’re in. It’s not difficult to make these accommodations. Start with the home’s exterior by installing a ramp, which will eliminate the possibility of stumbling while trying to navigate stairs. Your loved one’s bedroom and primary living quarters should be centrally located on the first floor of the home. This area, including the bedroom and bathroom, should be illuminated day and night, which will make it safer for your loved one to see where he is going.

Additional home safety tips for Alzheimer’s caregiving include:

  • Install grab bars/shower chair in the bathroom
  • Set water heater to lower than 120°F to prevent burns
  • Remove artificial/decorative foods from the home
  • Add childproof latches to drawers and cabinets with potentially-dangerous supplies; the Mayo Clinic includes matches, alcohol, cleaning products, knives, and plastic bags in this category
  • Install a baby monitor/video surveillance system in the Alzheimer’s patient’s bedroom
  • Avoid using space heaters or electric blankets
  • Remove door locks from the bathroom
  • Eliminate clutter throughout the home; remove toxic plants
  • Use eye-level visual aids on sliding glass doors, windows, and display cases
  • Remove large knobs from washer, dryer, and stove top
  • Restrict access to the garage and block all vehicles
  • Widen doorways throughout the interior and exterior of the home to accommodate wheelchair access
  • Mark steps with a brightly-colored tape
  • Install and regularly check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms
  • Install covers on exposed outlets

It’s never easy telling a family member that they are no longer capable of remaining independent. It is especially difficult when it is your parent or grandparent. However, by understanding Alzheimer’s disease and taking steps to ease the transition, you, and your loved one, will be in a better position to limit the disease’s impact on your lives.

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