by Ellen Busch September 8, 2012 writing about caring for seniors in Fullerton, Brea, Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills.
As a population we are living longer but our mental capabilities, and mental health aren’t advancing with our age. As long as that is true we need to learn to live with, and cope with dementia in our family’s life. Right now we need to worry about our parents, those in their 80s. Let’s start by looking around the home for ways to make it safer for Mom or Dad as they deal with dementia.
MAKING THE HOME SAFE FOR PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA
The good news is that people are living longer today. The bad news is that more and more people who live longer suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Estimates are that as many as 50% of those over 85 suffer from some form of dementia.
These individuals are often affected in terms of judgment (forgetting, for example, how to use certain household appliances); sense of time and place (becoming easily lost amid once familiar surroundings; behavior (becoming easily confused, suspicious and/or fearful); physical abilities (perhaps experiencing difficulties with balance); and senses (they may experience changes with their sensitivity to temperature or depth perception). These changes may happen over a long period of time, or seemingly overnight.
To help loved ones cope with this condition, caregivers should take the following steps:
Conduct a home assessment. Look around the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, garage and basement for possible danger zones and make necessary accommodations. This may range from hiding tools or sharp objects to removing any potentially dangerous medications from medicine cabinets.
Adapt to their needs. Rather than trying to re-teach an elderly loved one about safety, take the necessary action. For example, instead of reminding them not to drive the car, take the keys away.
Simplify activities. Most accidents occur when the elder is rushed. To alleviate this problem, break activities into simple, step-by-step tasks, allowing the individual sufficient time to complete them. For example, if the person is having a problem brushing his or her teeth, model the action first or prepare the toothbrush with water and toothpaste.
Support the individual’s needs. Make sure the home encourages independence, social interaction and meaningful activities. This may include putting grab bars in the entries of the home as well as the bathroom; engaging them to limit boredom, agitation and depression; and communicating effectively.
Caregivers need to protect themselves against burnout. This means recognizing the symptoms and getting help sooner rather than later. This may mean bringing in another family member or a certified home health aide to watch the patient for several hours every week or over a weekend.
Dealing with dementia is a challenge. Yet, when handled successfully, individuals can maintain some sense of independence and remain at home years longer – which is often the preferred option – while reducing the level of stress on the caregiver.
If your Mom or Dad have dementia or Alzheimer’s please express you love for them by dealing with the dangers in their life. Because you may not be in their home often you aren’t always faced with the dangers they are. Next time you visit them open your eyes and then your heart and keep their environment safe.