Bringing Mom Home: How to Create a Safe Space for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s
In-home care builds comfort and independence, but be mindful of these potential “danger zones”
Many family members who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s don’t think of themselves as “caregivers.” For them, it’s just caring for a parent – a role they are happy and proud to take on. Yet, providing round-the-clock in-home care for someone with Alzheimer’s can be a full-time job that requires patience, understanding and vigilance. When bringing a loved one with Alzheimer’s into your home, finding simple ways to create a space that’s both welcoming and safe can go a long way toward reducing stress.
Receiving in-home care not only helps people with
Alzheimer’s maintain independence and closeness with their family but also their
helps nurses and home health aides scope out their environment and identify
potential “danger zones.” Communicating these potential hazards with a
patient’s family helps ensure that the entire care team is working together to
create a safe place to live.
As a Care Coordinator and registered nurse for VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans, I work closely with the elderly and their loved ones to develop a health care plan that addresses a patient’s needs, helping them live safely and independently in the home. Here are some guidelines that I hope will help you create a home and lifestyle that meets the needs of the whole family.
Give each room a safety check
Walk around the house and view each room through the eyes of someone with Alzheimer’s. Is there adequate lighting? Are the light switches easily accessible? Check the rooms for loose objects such as exposed wires, toys and unsecured rugs that can cause trips and falls. If possible, make sure all stairs have handrails, are carpeted and have safety grips. If balance is an issue, consider a gate across the stairway entry.
Keep in mind that “safe” doesn’t mean “boring.” Rooms filled with family photos, keepsakes and mementos are not only inviting but can stimulate memories and allow people with Alzheimer’s to reminisce about happy times in their life.
Simplify the activities of daily living
Individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may often forget to turn off appliances such as coffee makers, irons, ovens, stoves, etc. To ensure their safety and lower the risk of fire hazards, consider using appliances that have an auto shut-off feature.
Anticipating the needs of someone with Alzheimer’s can also go a long way. Minimize late night trips to get food, water or use the bathroom by setting up a schedule and daily routine. Keep snacks and water easily accessible and place mats by the bed as an extra precaution against falls.
Safeguard doors and windows
In some cases, it might be necessary to install locks on outside doors and windows. Within the home, ensure that medications are locked and labeled and alcohol and any other potentially toxic plants or chemicals are removed or locked away. Also, check to make sure smoke detectors are properly installed with working batteries.
Ask for help and support
It’s crucial to have a strong network of support when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. If a caregiver ever experiences signs of extreme stress and burnout, it’s time for them to take a step back and care for their own health and wellbeing. VNSNY CHOICE, for example, offers a respite care program to caregivers in New York City who are eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or both. The program offers caregivers the chance to leave their family member with someone they trust so they can take a break of a few hours, days or even weeks.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that caregivers don’t need to do it all on their own. There are support groups and resources in the community that can act as a safety net when things become overwhelming. By taking advantage of these resources, the whole family benefits and thrives.
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