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Creating a Dementia-Friendly Home: Bringing It All Together

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 11 September 2009

iStock_000005922040XSmallFourth in a series of four; read part 1: Setting a Firm Foundation; read part 2: A Successful Action Plan; read part 3: Meaningful Activities

Clearly, creating a dementia-friendly home is a complex, dynamic and lengthy process that cannot be accomplished in a vacuum of peace and quiet. Caregivers must integrate these changes on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute basis, while simultaneously dealing with the often frustrating behaviors of the loved one in need. Having a list is extremely helpful for bringing all of these pieces together in one place. The Alzheimer’s Association has created an excellent tool that breaks the process down room by room:

Kitchen

  • Lock up cleaning supplies
  • Turn off electricity to the garbage disposal
  • Hide knives and other utensils
  • Store small appliances (toaster, blender)
  • Unplug larger appliances (microwave)
  • Remove knobs from the stove; hook up stove to a hidden gas valve or electric switch
  • Keep fire extinguisher nearby
  • Clean out refrigerator regularly

Bathroom

  • Set water temperature to 120 degrees or less
  • Install grab bars
  • Add textured stickers to slippery surfaces
  • Supervise the use of hair dryers, curling irons, and electric and hand razors
  • Remove locks from the bathroom door
  • Take dangerous items out of medicine chests

Bedroom

  • Avoid using electric blankets
  • Monitor use of heating pads
  • Install night lights between the bedroom and bathroom

Garage

  • Lock up hand and power tools (drills, axes, saws, picks)
  • Limit access to large equipment (lawn mower, weed trimmer, snow blower)
  • Lock up poisonous chemicals (paints, fertilizers)

Throughout the home

  • Disguise outdoor locks or install dead bolts
  • Remove or tape down throw rugs and carpeting
  • Apply colored stickers to large windows and sliding glass doors
  • Remove poisonous plants
  • Create an even level of lighting near doorways, stairways and between rooms
  • Remove objects that block walking paths
  • Remove and disable guns or other weapons

Outdoors

  • Disconnect gas from gas grill
  • Lock fence gates
  • Supervise the person, especially in areas that are not enclosed
  • Put away car keys

While it might be easy to follow a checklist like the one above, creating the action plan to prevent boredom, maintain independence and ensure caregiver/care recipient’s safety is extremely difficult and quite intangible. It can’t be crossed off a list, as there is no standard template for such a plan because it is so highly personal. Only you and your care team can be the ultimate experts on what is best for your loved one – and throughout the Alzheimer’s journey, you will learn and re-learn exactly what that looks like.

The journey of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia is one that must be taken seriously and taken in stride. There are necessary changes to make your home dementia-friendly; sometimes, those changes must be undone. Don’t fret if this is the case; just make the changes and move forward. Expect the unexpected. Know that even the best-laid plans may change.

As more people choose to provide care at home for as long as possible – both due to the rising costs of facility-based care and the individual’s desire to remain at home and maintain independence and dignity – this is clearly a challenge facing many modern-day families. You are not alone. Join a support group in your community, or find someone you can talk to about your day-to-day experiences. And remember, it takes a village.

-Michelle Seitzer

There are 2 Comments about this post

  1. Glenn says,

    Michelle, hello,I cared for my wife at home with frontal lobe dementia. My handle is “Dementia Caregiver” on twitter. Can follow tweets if you choose and compare notes. May be interesting. Best way to find is search by my handle, Dementia Caregiver.

    Glenn

     

    on 15 September 2009 / 8:29 PM

     
  2. Michelle says,

    Thanks for your comment, Glenn, and for taking on the challenges and rewards of caregiving for your wife. I’ll definitely take a look at your Twitter profile!

     

    on 16 September 2009 / 6:22 AM

     
 

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