Making a home dementia friendly
We walk around our home almost autonomously: cooking in the kitchen, rushing upstairs if we've forgotten something or popping into the bathroom to have a quick shower.
But if a relative or someone that you care for is suddenly diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the activities in the home that have almost become second nature can in fact turn into hazards if not properly addressed in realistic terms.
Obviously you'll want to preserve their independence and mobility in the safest possible ways, but you shouldn't get anxious and go over the top. But you may be confused as to where to start.
Thinking about the key stages of dementia will help you begin making your loved one's environment dementia friendly:
• Memory loss and confusion
• Acting out of character
• Judgement - losing grip of household items
• Physical ability - losing balance, or becoming depending upon a wheelchair or walker in order to move around
• Impairment of the senses
All of these symptoms determine how flexible a sufferer can continue to lead near enough the same routine. And these changes may not happen overnight, but you should make allowances for them if they do.
Here's how you can begin your dementia proofing in the home action plan
Assess the home
Walk around the home: which objects in the kitchen, bathroom, or living room could be dangerous Are there any trip hazards Consider they're mobility; is there enough room for manoeuvre Are spaces clutter-free so that there isn't a risk of tripping over anything
Instead of trying to introduce new, safer systems into their routines, adapt what's already there so as to encourage memory.
Dementia sufferers forget to eat. I've seen some suggestions from fitting glass cupboard doors to placing snacks around the house.
It isn't necessary to fit a stair lift just yet, as the part of the brain that remembers skills is one of the last to be affected. But make sure stair carpet is firmly fixed and that it's well lit.
Fit handrails in the bathroom and make sure harsh chemicals are out of reach.
Simplify activities and journeys
Accidents happen when a person is over stretched or rushed. Try to condense the distance and activity times for each part of their routine. Create a usual space for their slippers and reading glasses. Reduce clothing to a minimum and label essentials.
Make their bedroom comfortable and homely. Or display familiar photos around their favourite chair.
Avoid making the home too restrictive as this can be too distressing, making them feel alienated in their own home.
Consider future limitations
It isn't possible to safeguard everything, as an elder's needs are ever-changing. But if you find that trips and falls are becoming too much of a regular occurrence, it may be time to consider outside help.