Thanks to Hazel Bridges of for this excellent and practical article. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dementia affects about 5 million Americans aged 65 and older. It can be hard to watch a loved one face this diagnosis. Eventually, you might choose to welcome a family member with dementia into your home and provide round-the-clock care. The question is, is your home ready to provide this kind of care? If the answer is no, don’t worry. Dementia for Dessert shares tips on the basic changes and repair projects you can tackle to make your home safe and comfortable for a loved one with dementia.
The bathroom is a place where caregivers can make modifications that help a person with dementia remain as independent as possible. Not only is this important for the caregiver’s peace of mind — not having to worry every time your loved one closes the bathroom door — but staying engaged and independent can help slow down the progress of the disease. Because dementia often comes with memory loss and confusion, consider these accessibility upgrades to your bathroom:
- LED light strips to outline paths
- Doors that only lock from the outside — if they need to lock at all
- Safety handrails near the tub, shower, and toilet
- Faucets and light fixtures with automatic shut-offs
- Curbless entry shower
- Non-slip flooring
Keeping the bathroom safe is a priority as it is a place where some of the most home accidents occur. As an added bonus, thoughtful upgrades to bathrooms and kitchens are known to have a positive impact on property values, as well. The right upgrades could guarantee that your home sells for top dollar down the line.
When you make modifications in your kitchen, it is essential you start with a plan. The last thing you want is an accessibility project that you think will take one Saturday and winds up taking a whole month. That’s why having a plan should include creating a timeline, buying the right materials and tools, and expanding your knowledge.
Because people with dementia have trouble making decisions, consider labeling everything in your kitchen cabinets and pantry so your loved one can have an easier time deciding on what to eat. You can help them navigate the kitchen safely by:
- Replacing older appliances with ones that have an automatic shut-off.
- Marking the off positions on switches and control knobs with bright red tape, or even removing them entirely.
- Locking away all household cleaners, chemicals, and potentially hazardous materials. If you have prescription medications in the kitchen, you’ll want to lock those away, too.
- Removing sharp objects like knives and scissors.
- Installing an alarm so you know when someone enters or exits the room.
You can make the extra effort to help your loved one preserve his or her dignity by creating a kitchen that is welcoming and safe. Cook with your loved one and ask them to help pick out recipes or put away groceries during lucid and low-stress moments. For those times when a person with dementia might be overstressed, a calming, peaceful bedroom is a great space to have.
When looking to make your home safer for someone with dementia, you want to give them a room where they can rest, relax, and feel secure. Giving them privacy and a place to call their own can help settle down someone who might be feeling overstimulated, frustrated, angry, confused, or frightened. You can provide both comfort and care by constructing a bedroom that:
- Gives access to their favorite things, like music, books, or movies.
- Is free from breakable items.
- Has photographs and other sensory memorabilia that elicit happy memories.
- Uses contrasting colors to help seniors with low vision navigate with more ease.
Making It All Happen
Modifying your home to accommodate a loved one takes a lot of effort and a lot of money. While some projects are easy to DIY, others require the skills of trained specialists. For example, swapping faucets and creating a curbless entry shower should be handled by an experienced plumber from one of several local plumbing companies you’ve vetted. With the average plumber costing a minimum of $45-$150 an hour, these modifications can really add up.
If costs become an issue, it might make sense to refinance your home so you can free up cash to make these modifications. In addition to freeing up equity, a refinance can help lower your monthly payment when you lock in a lower interest rate. If you don’t have enough equity in your home or if it will be too expensive to make modifications, it might be better to find a new place.
Of course, buying an accessible home can be its own challenge. Depending on your situation it could make more sense to move into a rental property that has the design and amenities you need, whether for the long term or until you can find the ideal home. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to go into this with a clear understanding of how it could play out for you logistically and financially.
There is no cure for dementia, but you can slow down the progression and make your loved one more comfortable on this journey. Starting with the house makes safety an everyday priority for everyone, putting everyone on the same page for a happy, pleasant life together.
You will find my book Parkinson’s: A Love Story with Dementia for Dessert on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Parkinsons-Love-Story-Dementia-Dessert-ebook/dp/B07K4RLC2D/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542135434&sr=8-1&keywords=Parkinson%27s+A+Love+Story+with+Dementia+for+Dessert&dpID=41xS3edPH0L&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.
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