Anyone with a loved one who faces dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other age-related concerns knows that being a caregiver presents many challenges. Beyond the emotional aspects of caring for an older parent in the home, there are practical issues as well. While each individual’s needs for accommodation may be different, here are some tips to evaluate when bringing an aging loved one into your home. Some suggestions may be more practical down the road as your loved one’s needs evolve.
1. Clear Space for Movement and Declutter
Eliminate physical obstacles that present a danger to an older person’s movement and to prevent falls. In addition, keep visual stimuli to a minimum to help emotions stay on an even keel. Reduced confusion and a serene environment are particularly helpful for those with dementia.
2. Manage Light
Unusual glares and insufficient lighting contribute to negative stimuli that can stir unpleasant behavior. It might not be obvious that these stimuli are the cause of outbursts or depression. To keep your environment conducive to better moods, manage the lighting with easy-to-control drapes or blinds on all windows. If your loved one has a favored seat, keep the back of it to the window so the light doesn’t get too bright in their eyes. Increase the number of artificial lights in your house with timers to ensure the house is well-lit as the sun goes down. Also, the extra light minimizes the effects of sundowning, when the onset of evening can bring on depression or anxiety.
3. Manage Noise
Keep your TV and stereo on a level that won’t overstimulate your loved one. Pay attention to wind chime sounds and barking dogs that might cause anxiety. If you live in an urban area with a lot of outside noises, try a white noise machine to mask the effects.
4. Use an Alarm System to Protect a Wandering Loved One
People with dementia often wander on their own outside and get confused in finding their way back. Or worse, they put themselves in harm’s way. You can use a smart doorbell camera on all entries to alert you by phone notification when someone passes, or an alarm system that sounds a tone when an entryway is opened. There are also doormats that signal an alarm when walked on.
5. Remove Unnecessary Rugs
Rugs are a major tripping hazard for aging people. But for someone with dementia, a rug could be perceived as a ditch or hole and they may freeze or try to jump or walk around it out of confusion. You can eliminate this confusion by putting rugs away. If you must have them, use a dark rug against dark wood or a light one against light wood to reduce the contrast.
6. Make the Bathroom Safe
When aging people fall, it’s most often in the bathroom. Tile floors present the most common slipping hazard when wet. Consider a change to sheet vinyl such as Altro Aquarius, a resilient non-slip flooring made for wet and dry environments. If possible, make the shower floor flush without any step-up. Even better, configure so there’s no need for a shower door. Include handrails and a shower bench that fits securely.
7. Create a Comfortable Area Indoors
Whether it’s a chair and ottoman, recliner, couch, or chaise, give your loved one a place to sit that’s conducive to sleep as well. Keep the area away from high indoor traffic, but in view from where you spend your time. Include a side table for personal items that can be easily reached from a sitting position.
8. Create a Comfortable Area Outdoors
Your loved one needs a safe, serene area to get fresh air. Ensure there is comfortable seating for him or her, perhaps with an umbrella for sun protection. If wandering is a concern, make sure the area is gated. You may also want a smart camera in this space to alert you if they leave the yard.
9. Provide Memories with a Wall of Photographs
A wall devoted to older memories might serve as a source of enjoyment for an aging parent who likes to remember earlier times. A contained area for photos works better than spreading them throughout the home to minimize visual stimulation. Just use caution if your loved one gets frustrated in not remembering someone’s name or not recognizing a person who would otherwise be familiar. In such cases, simple wall art may be a better option.
Real Estate Term of the Week
Non-Slip Vinyl Flooring: A synthetic flooring material that is durable, affordable, and easy to install. Vinyl should not be confused with other types of flooring such as linoleum and laminate flooring. It is one of the best options for slip-resistant flooring. While no floor is perfectly slip resistant, some vinyl flooring products reduce the likelihood of falls. Vinyl has built-in padding should someone fall, reducing shock to the body. When having it installed, be sure to pick a product with a bit more underlayment to offer this type of padding. Vinyl flooring comes in options that look like wood, ceramic tile, or other types of floors.