written by: Paul Denikin
Many sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters will have to deal with the tough reality of having a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A large portion of them will also have to deal with taking their loved ones into their homes and being a primary caregiver. When life presents you with tough circumstances, sometimes the only thing to do is to prepare. Here’s how to make your home life ready for taking on this immense challenge while also allowing them to still be a part of your daily life and possibly do the things they loved, like work in a workshop or garage.
Think about the senses
Things that create a strong sensory response can disorient and frustrate someone dealing with Alzheimer’s. It’s on you to make sure your home, and subsequent workshop, is as soothing, calming, and sensorily inoffensive as possible. Using music and aromas to calm is ok – but pay attention to your loved one’s reactions. The fact that they’ve always loved jazz and the smell of peppermint doesn’t mean they will now. Alzheimer’s affects personality. Try to go somewhat minimal with your decorative choices. Paint rooms in soothing colors like white, dark blue, and grey. When referring to a garage or workshop it may be a good idea to reduce clutter. This is something that can be attained by simply having more of the smaller objects stowed away in larger units. Tool chests, plastic bins, and toolboxes are great ideas to help reduce the sensory overload for your loved one. It’s important to remember, though that these objects are still reachable so your loved one should never be left alone in this situation.
Above all, know that your loved one’spreferences can shift without warning. Here’s a good resource for how todesign a room for someone with memory loss.
When you first begin to “proof” your home or workshop for your loved one with Alzheimer’s you may feel guilty – as if you’re treating them like a child. This is understandable, but it’s important that you make your home as safe as you can. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it interferes with the brain’s ability to process certain hazards and turns once-common activities into potential dangers. The National Institutes of Health suggests safety knobs for your stove, child locks on cabinets and drawers (especially those containing sharp objects and chemicals), and extra smoke/carbon monoxide detectors around the house or workshop.
Some other, less-obvious precautions you may want to take include reducing your home’s water temperature (to prevent accidental burns), installing grab bars in the bathroom, and removing indoor locks around your home. In the workshop, consider putting lockboxes over power strips and breakers to avoid accidental electricutions, or starting of powertools.
Considersome home security/monitoring
Though you’re a primary caregiver, there will be times when you have to leave the home. You can give your loved one some extra safety and yourself some peace of mind by investing in some security equipment. While you don’t want to spy on your loved one in their most-private areas (bathroom, bedroom), it’s ok to set up some cameras in the common rooms of your home and facing the perimeter (outside) where the view of the outside of your workshop is open, and also inside your workshop in the event that they happen to gain access. Most home security cameras are synced up with your smartphone these days, so you can keep track of your loved one when you’re out and about.
Makesure you have the conversation
What conversation? THE conversation. The one that’s hard to have. It’s difficult to think about your loved one dying, and it’s even more difficult to talk to them about their eventual mortality – but it’s vital. Beginning end-of-lifeplanning is crucial as a caregiver. You must have the talk before your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses past the point where they can be a true participant. Make sure you know their burial wishes, last will and testament status, and memorial service arrangements.
As a primary caregiver to a live-in Alzheimer’s patient, you are going to have to make sacrifices around the home. Beauty may have to take a backseat to function and safety. In the end,the goal is to make your loved one as secure and comfortable as possible. Be flexible. Their likes, dislikes, and cognitive ability may shift on a daily basis. You must be ready to adapt your home at a moment’s notice to suit their ever-changing needs.
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