When a senior loved one has fallen victim to a severely mentally deteriorating disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, good caregivers often seek to make their living space as safe as possible. Sometimes well-meaning caregivers will change the entire arrangement of a home, swept up in removing hazards and adding locks to avoid accidents. However, caregivers must keep in mind that altering the environment of a senior with cognitive debilitations can also be very disorienting for them as well as helpful. Not all change is good for seniors with Alzheimer’s.
Often times, a senior has lived in the same home for many years, and is still able to navigate through the house with a sort of muscle memory about the layout of their familiar environment. Rearranging the home all together may contribute to some subconscious confusion in addition to their hampered cognition, making it even harder to get around. It may be best to retain a familiar surrounding.
Depending on the severity of your loved one’s case, some adjustments may surely need to be made. If a senior with dementia is prone to wander off, then door alarms or other precautions may need to be installed. Also, if a senior generally kept a messy home when living independently, the mess and clutter may add to the confusion as well, and disorient a senior’s sense of space. An untidy environment may also increase the likelihood of trips and falls. So, it will be up to you to gauge the necessary balance between maintaining a comfortable familiar surrounding and reorganizing space for safety purposes.
If you feel that changes to your senior loved one’s environment are in fact needed, then it may be best to de-clutter or safety-proof a home gradually. An overnight reconstruction of an Alzheimer patient’s living space can be an overwhelming change; but selectively removing or reorganizing unnecessary items around the home over time can be beneficial.
For many seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, routine is the key to sanity. It is often comforting and less mentally exerting to stay in a zone of sameness with fewer surprises.. Whenever you make a change or move something important to an elder in your care, try to be sure that they see you move their cane or bracelet or chair, so that it will register more easily in their mind, instead of coming off as a total surprise to discover later.
No one knows your loved one better than you do, so as their caregiver, try to figure out their own personal tolerance level for change when trying to craft an accommodating living space for their cognitive condition