November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. If a family member has been diagnosed with dementia, it can come as a shock and create anxiety within the family as to what will happen next. For many adults and seniors diagnosed with this disease, they want to remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. To achieve this goal, there will need to be some changes to enable people with dementia to remain independent for longer or make it easier for others to give support.*
- Avoid falls: Falls are a common and potentially serious problem affecting older people. The risk of falls increases with age. This may be because of a range of factors: medical conditions (such as stroke), medication, balance difficulties, visual impairment, cognitive impairment, and environmental factors. Falls can have detrimental effects on people, including injuries, loss of confidence and reduced activity. For some people with dementia, the condition can also increase the likelihood of falling. They may be less likely to recover as successfully as someone who does not have dementia.
- Check the home for potential hazards such as rugs, loose carpets, furniture, or objects lying on the floor, and modify as appropriate.
- Improve Lighting: As people get older, they need more light to see clearly. This is because of age-related changes to the eyes. Dementia can cause damage to the visual system (the eyes and the parts of the nervous system that process visual information), and this can lead to difficulties. The type of difficulty will depend on the type of dementia.
- Increase light levels where possible. Leave key lights on at night, for example, in the bathroom. Add a nightlight in bedrooms and hallways.
- Make Changes to the Home: As people get older, they may experience difficulties in managing everyday activities such as cooking or bathing, for a variety of reasons. People with dementia may experience additional challenges as their dementia progresses, because of memory problems or a reduced ability to carry out tasks in the correct sequence.
- Label cupboards and objects with pictures and words so that they can be identified.
- Where possible, use devices that only have one function and are easy to identify, such as a tea kettle.
- Place clear instructions somewhere visible that can easily be followed.
- Make sure the kitchen is well lit.
- Fit an isolation valve to a gas cooker so that the cooker cannot be turned on and left on. Devices are also available for electric cookers.
- Look into products that may help maintain independence and safety such as electric kettles that switch off automatically.
- If the person’s ability to recognize danger is declining, consider removing potentially dangerous implements such as sharp knives, but place other items for everyday use within easy reach.
- Safety Outside: Being outdoors is important for people of all ages, and has many benefits. It is good for mental and physical health, including wellbeing, sleep, and appetite. Being outdoors can have psychological benefits such as reduced depression and agitation.
- Make sure the patio, porches, and entrances are well lit.
- Put a rail on any stairs to help the person get up and down them.
- Avoid trip hazards such as loose paving and uneven surfaces.
- Have seating areas so that the person can take a rest or enjoy being outside if they are unsteady on their feet.
- Arrange Access: Make plans for how someone can gain access if the person with dementia or their caregiver are unable to answer the door.
To keep your loved one in their home for as long as possible requires planning. As we age, it is inevitable that we will need to change the way we live. If you are living with someone with dementia, there can be higher risks because everyone will experience dementia in their own way. Do you have questions about how to keep your aging parents or loved ones in their home and not sure where to turn? Feel free to contact our Nurse Gina or a FirstLight Home Care location near you.
*Alzheimer’s Organization 2015