Making Your Home Safer for a Loved One with Alzheimer's

The solution, then, may be to use bright red, yellow or blue to draw a person's attention to the relevant features in the environment that you want them to use. This could mean painting the trim of the bathroom door red, for example, or pinning up some red fabric on it to distinguish it from say, a closet door.

"Or you can put on a dark color toilet seat or seat cover, so it pops visually," suggested Raia. "In that way, the environment is thinking for the person with Alzheimer's."

Calkins recommended putting colored non-skid tape on the floor of the shower and top edge of the tub so it stands out. Tape can also be placed around the sink and toilet if color contrast is lacking in these areas.

Another safety option is to install a tub bench and a hand-held shower device to make bathing easier, pointed out Trudeau, who also proposed replacing a glass shower door with a curtain. Grab bars by the tub and toilet are also a good idea to help prevent slips and falls, and cushioned protectors on the edges of the sink countertop act as a further safeguard against falling injuries.

Rethinking the Kitchen

After the bathroom, the kitchen -- with its array of electrical appliances, sharp implements, and heat-generating surfaces -- is the second most dangerous room in the home for the person with Alzheimer's.

Just as you would with children in the home, access to hazardous items needs to be restricted: Keep sharp knives, cleaning supplies and medications out of sight, recommended Trudeau, by stashing them in a safe place and locking them up.

Remove any appliances or products that might be dangerous if easily accessible, whether it's the garbage disposal, fire extinguisher, toaster or food processor.

Minimizing the potential for harm in the kitchen also means eliminating the risk of fires and burns. One way to accomplish this, said Trudeau, is by placing safety-proof covers over the knobs of the stove or removing the knobs so only the posts are exposed.

For those who have Alzheimer's but who still enjoy spending time in the kitchen, small adjustments to the environment that may help them avoid confusion.

As memory falters, kitchen cabinets and drawers can be labeled with signage using words -- in big block lettering -- or pictures to indicate their contents, such as plates, spoons or dish towels. It may also be a good idea to arrange food, such as boxes and cans, so they are easily visible and less likely to be confused.

Modifying the Living Room

Getting rid of clutter -- whether in the form of piles of old magazines, stacks of papers or loads of knick knacks -- not only clears space, but it's less visually stimulating to the person with dementia. And paring down the furniture in some rooms can make for clearer and wider walking paths.

The aim is to simplify the environment and to not have too much going on in a room, since a person with Alzheimer's disease has less capacity to screen out the relevant information from the less relevant, Raia said.

By this same token, solid-colored upholstery, walls or drapery might be less confusing than bold, patterned designs. Likewise, too much detail or lots of patterns in carpets and flooring can be disorienting and result in falls.

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