When it comes to making a house safer for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, the primary focus should be on fall prevention. Sure, there are other strategies and modifications that go into senior safety, but when it comes to across-the-board risk, falls are king. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in seniors. And people with Alzheimer’s are at an even higher risk than the rest of the senior population. Here’s how you can protect your loved one.
Give Them Something to Hold Onto
Very few solutions work better to prevent falls than giving your senior loved one something to hold onto in precarious regions of the house. At the very least, you should install grab bars in the bathroom inside the shower and by the toilet. They can also be helpful in the kitchen and anywhere elevation changes in the home (a single step, a ramp, etc.). Grab-bar.com is a great place to find grab bars, faucets, and other bathroom safety products.
Focus on the Floor
Perhaps the largest contributor to falls in the home is improper flooring. Seniors — especially those with Alzheimer’s — should have non-slip, uncluttered floors on which to walk. Floors made out of natural stone and ceramic tile are usually too slippery for seniors, and some hardwood floors can also be problematic if over-polished. You may need to modify the floors in your home to better suit their needs, replacing unsafe materials with carpet, cork, or even rubber in some cases. Non-slip mats can often help in dangerous areas like the kitchen and bathroom as well. Don’t forget to watch out for area rugs with severe edges and high piles.
Let There Be Light
Most people don’t know that Alzheimer’s disease can affect visual acuity. This means you need to modify the home to make it as easy as possible for your loved one to see. Obviously, this means adding extra light sources. This can be table lamps, floor lamps, overhead lighting, and even spot lighting in dangerously dim areas. Opening blinds and curtains during the daytime can also help, as natural light is good for more than better sight!
One other thing to consider is contrast. It’s important that elements of the home don’t bleed into one another. Having sharp color contrasts helps.
If you can, you should encourage your loved one to wear better-fitting clothing and shoes around the house. While wearing socks and looser clothing may feel more comfortable, they both pose a slip and trip hazard. Loose clothing drags the ground and can even get caught on things as they walk around the house. Socks greatly increase their fall risk on just about every surface imaginable, so invest in comfortable house shoes for your loved one.
Find a Good Contractor for Bigger Jobs
If you need to tackle some more-involved home modifications, such as installing ramps, widening doorways or hallways, creating an extra first-floor living space, it’s vital that you hire a good contractor. Knowing how to hire the right person for the job will save you time, money, and a lot of headaches down the road.
As a caregiver, you have a lot on your plate. Even if you are attentive, involved, and everything a great caretaker should be, you can’t keep an eye on your loved one all the time. The first step you should take to ensure their overall well-being is reducing the risk that they suffer a spill.
After her Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Lydia Chan struggled to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She founded AlzheimersCaregiver.net as an online resource for fellow caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia writes articles about a range of caregiving topics.
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