Home Safety, Comfort and a Stimulating Environment

Home SafetyHome Safety involves  “safe proofing” a home for a loved one, parent or spouse who has cognitive impairment, memory loss and poor judgement goes beyond grab bars in the shower. Since older adults choose to remain in their own home, some modifications ought to be made to accommodate their deficits.  Fortunately today, a lot can be done without turning your home into a “facility” like place. We do recommend for folks staying at home, to also attending a Day Care program during the week so they will have greater stimulation and social interactions.

The challenge is to make the home a satisfactory environment, warm and not too different for the well spouse or adult son/daughter.

Safety First:

Prevention is a key strategy for home safety. Remove things which can be bumped into or tripped over, especially if your loved one uses a walker (Parkinson Disease). Keep toxic chemicals, firearms, medications, matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or drawer, or out of their visual field. Altering the stove knobs and burners is worth looking to as the degree of impairment increases. Stairs should be well lit and with railings. A pool should have a locked fence or gate around it.  Extra sets of car keys should also be out of their reach and you may want to have the steering wheel locked. Doors and windows can have latches high up out of their reach, as well as having an alarm on doors leading outdoors so you know if your loved one has gone outside on their own – wandering risk.

It is recommended to have your phone number in their wallet but not identifying information. You can also place an Alzheimer’s Association card in their wallet.

Lessen behavioral cues:

Watch and record your loved one for a few days around the house so you can monitor things which cause them frustration, anger and agitation as well as confusion and sadness. These are the things to eliminate from their experience so that their home is more of a relaxing place. Shadows and grayness or inadequate lighting can cause negative reactions and fear. Busy patterns in the furniture, on the walls or floor can cause greater confusion. Throw rugs should be eliminated as they cause falls and can be perceived as “black holes” in the floor. Other triggers can be smells and sounds. The washing machine or dishwasher at night can be anxiety provoking. Once you get used to identifying your loved one’s cues, you can better work around them.

Functionality & Stimulating Home Environment:

Contrast in color can help a person with some degree of cognitive loss to keep their bearings. Their room can be in their favorite color. Plates should have a color rather than white plates. Limiting a lot of choices is very helpful so that the person doesn’t become overwhelmed and more confused. “Keeping it Simple” can be your guide. They don’t need several glasses and forks, one will do.

Labeling cabinets and drawers can be very helpful – with pictures and/or with words. You can label their underwear drawer, Electric Razor drawer; a picture on the bathroom door is helpful too.

In order to break the dynamic of family/spousal caregiver and loved one so both get a break it is important to have others involved. It can be family visits, friend visits, Day Care, or hiring an aide/companion. Another person, new to the “shift” is more energized and hopefully a fresh reserve of patience. Games, walks, puzzles – all at their ability level are good way to engage. Encouraging their help with meal prep, laundry, shopping is also a good way to keep the person feeling purposeful and needed. The primary caregiver – spouse often has limited time and patience to always encourage such participation. This is when another caregiver, aide or companion in the home
is very useful.

Planning is required to create a safe, nurturing and functional home environment.