When a parent or senior family member lives with Alzheimer’s disease, home safety can be a constant concern. For most families, there will come a day when the difficult decision about where their loved one will live will have to be made. Adult children often try to move a loved one into their home for a while before they move them to a memory care assisted living community. While Alzheimer’s experts typically recommend any change in their environment to be made in the earliest stages of the disease, seniors often resist. If you find yourself in the position of moving your loved one in with you during more advanced stages of their Alzheimer’s, creating a safe and supportive environment is key to making a smooth transition.
Create a Safe, Supportive Environment for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
Before your aging family member moves in to your home, there are some steps you need to take to ensure they are safe and feel supported. Those include:
1. Conduct a Home Safety Assessment: Walk through your house with an eye out for potential safety risks. Look for issues that might create a fall hazard such as throw rugs, extension cords and uneven floors. Also consider places where grab bars might need to be installed or lighting should be enhanced. Remember too that people with Alzheimer’s disease don’t always recognize potential dangers. That is why it is important to keep firearms and tools locked up. If you are concerned you may miss something important, a call to your loved one’s primary care physician might help. They can order a home safety evaluation by a physical or occupational therapist.
2. Consider a Home Security System: As the population has grown older, home security companies have become more sophisticated in the technologies they offer to support seniors. While the basics such as door and window alerts help you keep track of a senior with dementia, there are probably additional safety features you can add. Some include GPS tracking bracelets and medical alert buttons. To read more
3. Utilize Aging Services Technologies: There are a variety of stand-alone senior technology products that can help keep your loved one safe and others than can help you in your caregiver role. For more information read Technology that Helps Seniors and their Caregivers. At a minimum, you want to have a system in place that allows you to quickly locate your loved one in the event they wander. ComfortZone from the Alzheimer’s Association and eCares are two that can help.
4. Provide Visual Cues: Consider putting together visual cues that will help your loved one find what they need around your house. For example, a sign with photos of a shower and toilet for the bathroom door and a photo of a glass for the kitchen cupboard. These small cues can help support their independence.
5. Establish a Supportive Routine: For sandwich generation caregivers, this may be one of the most difficult hurdles you face when a loved one with Alzheimer’s moves in. Picking up one child from ballet, dropping off another one at piano lessons all while having a quick bite in the mini-van might be a typical day in your life. For someone with Alzheimer’s disease, however, such a hectic evening can increase agitation and contribute to wandering and sleeplessness. Try to organize your day so that most of your loved one’s activities occur early in the day. It might mean relying on another family member or an in-home caregiver to stay with them in the after school hours when you are busy with your kids’ activities.
6. Create Success: Before your loved one makes this move, learn more about how you can help create successful moments for them. It is one of the best things you can do to support their remaining abilities.
7. Have a Back-Up Plan: Plan for emergencies now. That might mean visiting assisted living communities in your area that have a dedicated memory care program. You can use their respite services when you need a break from caregiving or when your family wants to enjoy a vacation.
We hope these tips help your loved one with Alzheimer’s make a smooth transition.