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Home safety tips for Alzheimer's to keep your loved one safe and secure

Alzheimer’s may rob a person of their memories; however, it doesn’t have to rob them of the chance to remain at home. With a number of modifications, a home can remain safe, secure and familiar for many seniors experiencing cognitive decline.

Age-friendly home improvements are important for creating a safe space for your loved one. All of this begins with a careful and thorough examination of the senior’s home. Let’s start outside the home. Are there cracks or heaves in the sidewalk? Are there stairs leading to the front door? Does that front door have a round door knob? Family caregivers should repair any cracked sidewalks to reduce the risk of tripping. Stairs can prove to be difficult for seniors to climb (if not impossible). Tighten down the handrail for seniors to grab and pull themselves up if necessary. Other options include installing a stairlift or building a ramp. If land is limited, remember that ramps don’t have to extend straight out, they can easily circle back on themselves. If the home’s front door is unreachable or too costly to access, perhaps another door can be considered as a point of entry? Round door knobs can be difficult for seniors, with or without Alzheimer’s disease, to both grab and turn. An easy fix is to replace the round door knob with a lever, which can be easily pressed down to open the door.

How to Make a Home Safe for Seniors

Upon entering the home, someone with Alzheimer’s will need a more open layout. Excess clutter can be risky and can cause further confusion. Remove unnecessary furniture. Consider the style of furniture as well. Someone with Alzheimer’s can become weaker and may not have the physical strength to lift themselves out of a comfortable couch. Hide away any extension cords which may be stretched across a room as these can become tripping hazards. Scrutinize any old carpeting which may be peeling off the floor. Glue this back down or remove the carpeting entirely. On that same subject, pull out any throw rugs which may slide when an unsteady senior walks over them and cause him or her to tumble.

Kitchen Designs for Alzheimer’s

Moving to the kitchen, family caregivers can better ensure a senior’s safety by routinely cleaning out the refrigerator and cupboards. Stored food often has an expiration date and will spoil if kept too long. Depending on how advanced the senior’s Alzheimer’s disease is, family caregivers can also turn off the oven/stove, either by turning off the breaker or unplugging the appliance, or remove any control knobs. Visiting family caregivers can bring prepared food or easily distract a senior long enough to turn the oven/stove back on to cook a meal. Family caregivers could also color-code the water controls for the kitchen sink - use red for hot and blue for cold.

Designing a Senior-Friendly Bathroom

The bathroom is the most used room in any house and, as such, deserves the most attention. Grab bars placed in strategic locations throughout the bathroom, namely, beside the bathtub or shower and toilet, can be very helpful. A raised toilet seat, a walk-in tub, a handheld shower nozzle and a shower chair can all make things easier for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers could consider removing the bathroom mirror as well. A senior with advanced Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize him or herself in the glass and be startled or frightened when seeing an “intruder”.

Home Designs for Longevity

Other tips on how to remodel your home for senior safety include installing more lights to brighten up any dark hallways or rooms, painting interior stair lips a different color to differentiate steps from each other, installing deadbolt lockers near the top or base of doors to make them not as visible and reachable, and/or hiding away sharp knives and any potentially hazardous materials.

With some careful preplanning and ongoing monitoring by family caregivers, a senior with Alzheimer’s disease can safely continue living at home.

About the Author(s)

As a former co-caregiver, Rick Lauber helped and supported his own aging parents. His mother had Parkinson's and Leukemia and his father had Alzheimer's. Rick learned that caregiving is challenging and used writing to personally cope.

His stories became two books, Caregiver's Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide.

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