If your mother has a cognitive disease like dementia, allowing her to stay in a place she recognizes and surrounding her with those she loves can help her feel safe, promote independence and reduce stress. Taking the time to prepare a home so it is safe can prevent injuries to your loved one and provide you with greater peace of mind. Preparing a home requires some thought and planning. And, occasionally, you will need to consider physical alterations to the property including small remodeling projects that will help to ensure safety. Here are some home alteration projects to consider.
- Stove: If your mom has dementia, she should only cook when another adult can supervise and help her. Prevent burn and fire risks by installing a stove with removable knobs. Alternatively, hire an electrician to install a master shut-off switch for the stove in an area that your mother can’t easily reach, like in a cupboard.
- Labels: Help your mom remain independent for as long as possible with gentle reminders. Label your cupboards and drawers so she can always find what she needs. During a remodel, use engraved nameplates made of metal, plastic or wood instead of sticker-like labels to maintain your kitchen’s decorative style.
- Safety locks: If you keep chemicals in the kitchen, move them to a cupboard that has a childproof latch or safety lock.
- Refrigerator: Help your mom remember to close the refrigerator or freezer door with a refrigerator that sounds an alarm when she leaves the door open for a certain period.
- Handrails: Maintain your mother’s independence by installing handrails in the bathrooms. Place rails next to toilets and along the sides of counters. In addition, install at least one rail in the shower or tub.
- Shower: Stepping into a tub to take a shower may be dangerous. Replace this type of setup with a stand-alone shower that lets your mother walk in and out easily. Install a built-in bench in the shower in case your mom wants to sit, or leave enough room in the shower for a waterproof bench.
- Bathroom mats: In addition to using a bath mat on the bathroom floor to prevent slips, use a mat on the bottom of the shower. If you do not like the appearance of a shower mat, choose a textured shower flooring material that promotes traction.
- Medicine cabinet: Relocate all the medications in the medicine cabinet to a secure area. If this is not an option, install a lock on the medicine cabinet.
- Door knobs: Consider installing new door knobs that don’t lock so you don’t have to worry about your mother forgetting how to unlock the door or injuring herself in a locked room. Or if your door handles can be unlocked from the outside with a key, keep it in a safe location that is easily accessible.
- Rails: Install rails to help make getting in and out of bed simple for your mom.
- Lights: Install dim motion-sensitive lights so your mother can still see where she is going if she forgets the location of the light switch or wakes up at night.
- Location: If you live in a multi-story home, consider converting one of the areas or rooms downstairs into a bedroom so your mother doesn’t have to climb stairs. If you’re ready for a bigger project, you can include an addition in your remodel project and build a downstairs bedroom.
General Living Areas
- Practice consistency: During a remodel, avoid moving furniture around too much because this may confuse or disorient your mother. However, make sure there is enough room for your mom to get around using a cane, walker or wheelchair.
- Stairs: Ensure that all stairs have sturdy handrails, regardless of the number of steps they have. Install ramps on outside stairways so bad weather poses less of a hazard.
As you and your mom adjust to the changes brought on by cognitive decline, your home may need to change too. By working with your existing space and keeping safety a top priority, you and your mom can find comfort and peace of mind.