Living Accessibly

When an individual has Alzheimer's, the on-going brain decline impacts the individual's balance, vision, hearing, dexterity as well as their cognitive abilities.  Living at home for as long as possible is the desire of most of us.  It is our space with our belongings, after all.  However, our home may not be the safest place for the individual with Alzheimer's or other dementia.

My home is typical of my neighborhood.  It has two stories and the bottom floor is not all on the same level.  The entrance, the kitchen and dining room are on one level.  The living room is down a step.  The library and laundry room is down two steps.  The stairs up to the second floor have two landings with a turn two steps down from the top.  Let's not even address the railing situation.  My home is an accident waiting to happen for someone with failing balance, vision and dexterity.   Fortunately, Lyn doesn't have to navigate all these issues on a daily basis.

Lyn's home  is all one one level.  She has a single step up into the house.  Once inside, she doesn't have to navigate up or down another step.  Her bathroom now has a handle she uses to get in and out of the tub.  If that becomes too difficult, her bathroom has enough space that the tub could be refitted to allow her to just walk into a shower.  It is a minor renovation if it becomes necessary.  Some homes, like mine, would require much more work to make safe.

What do you do if you've got to improve the safety of your home and yet you have limited resources?  There are some low to no cost changes that you can make such as rearranging or reducing the amount of furniture to create more open walking spaces.  If the person struggles with round door knobs, consider switching them out for lever handles.  The American Foundation for the Blind has a list of helpful suggestions you might consider.  The Design Linc has quite a few articles on the topic of improving the accessibility of your home, both inside and out.  A little bit more internet digging will provide you with more information about disability accessibility.

One thought that popped in to mind as I was contemplating this post was the shower.  I've read many times that individuals with Alzheimer's often resist showering as their disease progresses.  Alzheimer's educator and advocate Teepa Snow speaks about the impact dementia has on a person's vision.   I've also read the suggestion that perhaps the Alzheimer's patient is confused by the shower because the water, though wet, is essentially invisible.  So, perhaps an LED shower head which lights up the water would be useful for the Alzheimer's patient.  If the water is blue or green and contrasts against the white of the shower, perhaps the person would see it more easily and be less confused.  It is a small change, but it may be worth investigating.


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