After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, some senior parents move in with their adult child. While many know it’s likely a short-term solution, it can give family members more time to explore options and create a plan of care they feel confident in.
As the senior’s disease progresses, new challenges arise. From bathroom safety to wandering, it’s important to create an environment that addresses common struggles people with Alzheimer’s experience.
Home Safety Tips
In the earlier stages of the disease, you’ll probably need to modify one or all of your bathrooms to make them safer for your aging parent. A few suggestions to consider include:
- Mounting grab bars: Dementia can cause balance problems, including unsteadiness rising from a chair or the toilet. It’s a good idea to install sturdy grab bars near the toilet. You may also want to take down towel bars so the older adult isn’t tempted to pull on them. Because towel bars aren’t meant to hold much weight, they may pull away from the wall, resulting in the senior falling. It’s often helpful to add a grab bar near the senior’s bedside, too.
- Installing a raised toilet seat: Another safety feature that might help is a raised toilet seat. They are fairly inexpensive and easy to install. For adults who are unsteady on their feet, they help minimize the risk of falling while using the toilet. Most drug stores and home improvement stores sell them for under $100.
- Putting down nonskid mats: Throw rugs can be a fall hazard in any room. Pack them away while the senior is in residence. To help keep the senior safe getting in and out of the shower, especially with wet feet, put down nonskid mats. You can use them both inside the shower and outside on the bathroom floor.
If you store cleaning products or medications in the bathroom, add a lock to the cabinet door. As Alzheimer’s progresses, an adult might mistake these products for something else and ingest them. The same is true for cabinets where you keep cleaning products, knives, or other potentially hazardous household items.
Wandering from Home
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in ten adults with Alzheimer’s will wander from home at some point. Unfortunately, once a senior wanders they are more likely to do it again. That’s why it’s important to plan for the worst.
If you have a home security system, make sure it sounds an alert when an exterior door is opened. Adjust the volume if needed so the chime can be heard across the home. If your system doesn’t include cameras around the home’s exterior, it’s probably a good idea to add them.
In the event your loved one does wander, whether it’s from your home or another location, you’ll want to have a GPS tracking device that allows you to quickly locate them. Options have increased in recent years. Most are discreet enough not to be harmful to the senior’s self-esteem, such as:
- Pocket devices: iTraq and PocketFinder are small devices designed to track everything from car keys to luggage. If a loved one has memory loss, you can drop these in their pocket when they are getting dressed in the morning. In the event of an emergency, you can track the user’s location from your smartphone or laptop.
- GPS watch: Another option to explore is a GPS watch. There are a variety of models at different price points. The HandsFree Health Smart Watch is highly rated by reviewers. In addition to GPS tracking, it also offers two-way communication. That’s a nice feature for communicating with a loved one who is lost and frightened.
- SmartSole: This very discreet GPS tracking system slides into an older adult’s shoe. It’s trimmable so you can fit it to the senior’s shoe size. No one will even know they are wearing it. You can track their location in five-minute increments and even receive an alert if they move out of a predetermined geozone.
One final suggestion is to create an Alzheimer’s Wandering Kit. If the worst happens and you can’t locate your loved one, this information will allow emergency responders to quickly get to work.