Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bathroom and Kitchen Remodeling for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and almost all of them are over 65.  And nearly half of people who reach the grand age of 85 are battling the disease.  Alzheimer’s is the leading reason for placing elderly people in institutions such as nursing homes.  Since I am a proponent of living a long life at home, these sad statistics started me thinking about how to prepare for living life at home with Alzheimer’s.

So I decided to solicit the opinions of my trusted colleague, Pam Rakoczy. Pam has over a quarter century’s experience in occupational therapy and now runs Liberty In Home Care, a homecare company that enables hundreds of physically and cognitively-impaired people in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties of Pennsylvania to remain safely in their homes.

George:  Much of our time is spent remodeling bathrooms so that seniors can age in place.  Do you have any specific recommendations for the bathroom?

Pam:  We always make sure there are grab bars in the shower and that you can walk straight in to it.  We look at the difficulty of getting in and out of the shower or in bathing itself  because when you get to the later stages of Alzheimer’s, the senior may have difficulty getting in and out of the shower because they lose their balance.

We like to have faucets with elongated handles because they make to make it easier for the caregiver to turn the faucets on and off without upsetting their own balance when they are caring for someone.  Also, you want to check the water temperature.  You should turn the water heater down so there’s no risk of scalding the client. They could easily turn the hot water on and hurt themselves. 

You also want to make it easier on the caregiver so I’m a proponent of the raised toilets.  The standard toilet is about 13 inches high but the raised ones are at least 17 inches.  This makes it easier for the caregiver and the client.

George:  I totally agree with you Pam.  We find our comfort height toilets are very popular.  People tend to react by saying “Why aren’t they all like this?”  We’ve also been installing a lot of grab bars, walk in showers and walk in tubs
What issues exist in the kitchen for the senior with Alzheimer’s?

Pam:  Well, of course, access to sharp knives and glassware can be dangerous and we advise using plastic ware instead.  Other hazards are the stove and the oven.  So you may need to take the knobs off the stove or put a lock on the oven door.  You also could need a lock on the refrigerator and freezer if the individual is constantly eating.  The problem is they won’t realize they are satiated so they’ll keep going into the fridge.

Then there are cabinet doors that could need locks.  Often a trigger lock or magnetic lock works well because there is no obvious mechanism for the senior to break if they get agitated.  If something doesn’t open and the senior can’t see what’s preventing it, they’re often less agitated than if there’s a visible lock.  That tells them they’re not supposed to get in and they don’t like that.

It’s also less frustrating if something is out of their direct line of sight or is less visible.  So we advise putting the locks high or low on the door, out of the senior’s line of vision.  You can also use a key lock which is less obvious than the slide bolt.

George: Thanks for your input.  I’ll be checking back with you to get an idea what recommendations you make that cater to individual needs.

Goodbye for now……George Flowers

What recommendations do you make to improve safety for someone with Alzheimer’s in their kitchen or bathroom?

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