An estimated six million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease, most of which are aged 65+. If there’s an aging loved one in your family with Alzheimer’s, involving them in the holiday festivities can be challenging. As a host, preparing your home beforehand is essential to ensure that your loved one celebrates the holidays with the dignity and respect they deserve. What follows are several easy and reliable ways to make your home environment safer and more comfortable for any holiday houseguest who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s?
As the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that involves areas of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. The disease initially presents mild memory loss and confusion.
As it progresses, Alzheimer’s can make it difficult to carry on a normal conversation and respond to one’s environment. During the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, performing activities of daily living (ADLs) – such as feeding oneself, dressing, and toileting – can be next to impossible. Unusual behaviors such as wandering off or sundowning can also occur.
Home Preparation Tips for Family Caregivers
If you will be hosting a holiday family gathering this year, here’s how to adjust your expectations to accommodate a loved one with Alzheimer’s:
Tone down the decorations
Bright, blinking lights, loud noises, and large decorative displays can trigger or worsen confusion for someone with Alzheimer’s. Be sure to avoid decorations that create a lot of clutter or require you to rearrange a familiar room. Any shiny or breakable decorations should be placed on shelves well above your loved one’s eye level to minimize temptation.
Minimize safety hazards
Two simple ways to eliminate fire hazards are by substituting electric candles for burning candles and by not having a real fire going in your fireplace. If you choose to light candles or burn logs in your fireplace, never leave them unattended while your loved one is in the room. Store any matches or lighters in the home safely out of sight.
Also, avoid fragile decorations or any decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats – for example, artificial fruits. And finally, be sure that your holiday tree is securely anchored to a wall and that there are no electrical cords in foot traffic areas.
Play familiar music
Another way to make your loved one feel more comfortable and relaxed is by playing some of their favorite holiday music. While doing so, dial down the volume so they won’t get agitated or distressed.
Safe proof the kitchen
Home kitchens are busy places during the holiday season. But they can also be dangerous environments for anyone living with Alzheimer’s.
Minimize the likelihood of an accident in your kitchen by:
- Installing childproof door latches on storage cabinets and drawers
- Storing any medications kept in the kitchen in a locked cabinet
- Removing throw rugs and foam pads from the floor
- Keeping a nightlight in the kitchen
- Removing artificial fruits and vegetables, along with food-shaped kitchen magnets, which might appear to be edible
- Temporarily disconnecting the garbage disposal
- Inserting a drain trap in the sink to catch anything that may otherwise get lost or clog the plumbing
- Not storing any flammable liquids in the kitchen
- Installing safety knobs and an automatic shut-off switch on the stove
- Securing the family “junk drawer”
Reliable In-Home Dementia Care for Families in Northern Milwaukee
When your loved one lives with Alzheimer’s or dementia, another proven way to create a safer home environment is by hiring a professional in-home caregiver to assist them. Put your mind at ease by contacting the caring professionals from Home Instead of Senior Care. Conveniently available in Northern Milwaukee, our senior care services help to enhance the aging experience by providing practical support at home delivered with a human touch.
Our reliable in-home solutions help aging adults stay engaged in everyday life with tailor-made support to stay safe and well at home. At Home Instead, it is always our mission to provide a care plan personalized to your family’s needs – bringing you all comfort, companionship, and peace of mind. To learn more or schedule a time to talk with one of our home care specialists, please visit us at homeinsteadwi.wpengine.com.