Advice for Caregivers: Adjust Your Abode for Alzheimer’s

By: Lydia Chan

Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.4 million Americans, about 5.2 million of which are 65 and
older. It can be your grandparent, your cousin, your sibling or even your parent who faces the
diagnosis. Eventually, those with Alzheimer’s require round-the- clock care, and for many
families, that means taking the loved one into their own home. If you will soon be opening your
doors to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there are a few things you might not think to do,
but should to make your home both safe and inviting.

Avoid behavioral triggers

Confusion and memory loss are two of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. While there
isn’t anything you can do to stop their onset, you can adjust your home to reduce instances of
confusion and agitation. Particular items and design elements in your home may trigger certain
behaviors depending on the stage of the disease. Alzheimer’s eats away at memories to the
point where your loved one won’t recognize you or themselves. Seeing their reflection in the
mirror or viewing unfamiliar faces in photos can be unsettling, so you may have to remove such

Another common symptom is sundowning, which is a phenomenon in which an individual with
Alzheimer’s becomes irritated and restless in the evening hours. Use curtains just before dark to
lessen the visible change in lighting/shadows within the room. Curtains, flooring, walls and
furniture should be a solid, neutral color as opposed to a busy pattern that overstimulates the

Safety-Proof Rooms

While the symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s are universal, it is important to
remember that the disease is still unique to each individual. According to the Alzheimer’s
Reading Room, “Each person’s home is different, just like each person with dementia or
Alzheimer’s related memory loss. There will be unique behaviors or characteristics that require
continual reassessment.”
While you should remove hazards from every room, revisit each room often. Cut off access to
rooms that should be off limits because of the extreme danger they pose such as the garage,
attic, outdoor area and basement. In order for you to be able to continue having access to these
“danger zones,” reposition door locks out of sight, either high or low, or have an alarm installed
that emits an alert when certain doors are opened.

Keep It Functional

As you make adjustments to your home, avoid approaching it with the mentality that you need to
do everything for your loved one. Until the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease set in, your loved
one will still be able to complete tasks on their own; it just may require a nudge in the right
direction, and a functional home is the ticket.
Walk through each area of your home and determine what adjustments can be made that will
help your loved one complete a task without help. For example, in the bathroom you could add
grab bars in the shower/tub for extra support or label the contents of each cabinet in the kitchen.
You might find it helpful to label each room using pictures. For some individuals, having one
more choice can be frustrating, so simplify things by having one set of plates or pre-planned

Your loved one’s needs and abilities may change daily, weekly or monthly, so you will need to
reassess your home regularly. Bringing a loved one with Alzheimer’s into your home and taking
on the caregiving role is a huge step, but it is one that is easy to make with the right preparation.
By modifying your home to reduce behavioral triggers and increasing safety and functionality,
your loved one can continue to thrive.

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