Alzheimer's Home Modification

What it Means to Modify the Home Environment


Lighting, color or noise can greatly impact the behavior of a person with Alzheimer's.

Changes and adjustments to the home environment can help make day-to-day activities easier and safer and can reduce specific symptoms, such as wandering.

Simple adjustments:
  • Keeping often-used items in a certain place
  • Labeling doors or drawers so the person can find things easily
  • Using notes and timers to remind the person to do certain things
More extensive measures may ensure safety and reduce problematic behaviors.

How Modifying the Home Can Help


The Map Room


The map room of the brain helps orient us in time and space. The result may be
  • Wandering
  • Losing one's way to or from destinations - even in a own home
Environmental modification can help overcome the loss of internal mapping abilities.

Possible Effects


  • Remain more independent
  • Remain socially engaged
  • Have fewer paranoid delusions and aggressive outbreaks
  • Be less anxious
  • Jog short-term memories
  • Help the person with Alzheimer's access long-term memories
  • Live more safely
  • Delay dependence on others for daily activities

Beneficial Modifications


Some proven beneficial modifications:
  • Low levels of light during meals
    • This may improve eating habits
  • Simply furnished spaces with minimal distractive clutter
  • Consistent background noise, especially music of the person's choosing or simulated nature sounds
  • Placing objects that cue memories in clear view, such as photographs, mementos and familiar furniture
  • Ensuring privacy and personalizing space - especially if the afflicted person spends time or resides in a healthcare facility outside of the home

Ways to Make the Home Safer


Early Stages


  • Using appliances that shut off automatically
  • Setting timers or alarms as reminders
  • Using notes and lists
  • Meal preparation may pose a risk
    • When stove is on, if food is too hot / cold, etc.
  • Check gas appliances for working pilot lights
  • Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the house

Later Stages


  • Remove guns, knives and other potentially dangerous implements
  • Secure toxic or poisonous items

Driving for a Person with Alzheimer's


People with Alzheimer's pose a significant traffic-safety problem.

Communicate the decision carefully and sensitively. The person may understandably be upset by the loss of independence and the need to rely on others for going place. Safety must be the first priority.

Here are some suggestions from the National Institute on Aging:
  • Clues that safe driving is no longer possible:
    • Getting lost in familiar places
    • Driving too fast or too slow
    • Disregarding traffic signs
    • Getting angry or confused.
  • Be sensitive to the person's feelings but be firm in your request
  • Be consistent
    • Don't allow the person to drive on 'good days' but forbid it on 'bad days'
  • Ask the doctor to help
  • Recommend the person no longer drive
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles for a re-evaluation
  • Take the car keys
  • Substitute a different set of keys
  • Move the car to another location
Source: The National Institute on Aging 'Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer's Disease'

How Wandering Can Be Managed


  • Install alarms or locks on doors
  • Provide identity bracelets for a safe return
  • Accompany them on a walk in the neighborhood or a park
  • Supervised wandering
    • Wander and pace in safe enclosed spaces
  • Have someone stay with the person at all times to prevent wandering

Where to Learn More About Home Modifications


  • Patient groups for people with Alzheimer's
  • Caregiver support groups
  • Your doctor
  • A counselor
  • Social worker
  • Care manager

CAPS - Contractors Specially Trained in Aging Issues


Certified Aging In Place Specialists are contractors who have gone through extensive training in home modifications for older adults and people with disabilities. Learn more about Certified Aging In Place Specialists (CAPS).

Managing Incontinence


Incontinence is the inability to control one's bladder and/or bowel movements due to a physical illness or medications.

Tips


  • Have a routine for taking the person to the bathroom
  • Watch for signs that the person may have to go to the bathroom
  • Be understanding when accidents occur
  • Keep track of when accidents happen
  • Limit certain types of fluids in the evening
  • Plan ahead
  • Know where restrooms are located
  • Wear simple, easy-to-remove clothing
  • Take an extra set of clothing along in case of an accident
Source: The National Institute on Aging 'Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer's Disease'

Other Considerations


  • Contact a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. These are home-remodeling contractors who have been specially trained in remodeling issues for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Contact the Alzheimer's Association for more information.
  • Alzheimer's Association National Office
    • 225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17
      Chicago, IL 60601