According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 7.7 million new cases of dementia each year, making dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older adults worldwide. In a recent blog, we shared two ways in which Jennifer Brush, M.A., CCC-SLP, advises all older adults to plan for the possibility of declined brain health. We expand on that list here.
Modifying the Home
Modifying the home environment with certain universal design features—those that create an attractive, stylish space that everyone regardless of age, size, or ability can live in or visit—can improve safety and promote independence for people of all ages regardless of cognitive health. Retirement living communities are often already universally designed, featuring open spaces, wide doors, no-step entries, and more. You can easily make small modifications to your home by installing grab bars in the bathroom, replacing non-twisting faucets, fixtures, and doorknobs with those that can be operated with a closed fist, and increasing lighting in and around the house.
Home modifications for people with dementia in the early to mid-stages are usually made to compensate for memory, vision, and hearing impairments. These modifications are usually simple and do not require any special expertise. Home modifications for those in the later stages of the disease usually compensate for mobility and significant cognitive impairments. Often, these modifications will require a skilled contractor.
Every home and every person with dementia is unique. Therefore, a home modification that works for one person may not work for another. The best modifications are those tailored to the individual and home and created to take full advantage of a person’s ability to continue to participate in daily activities and chores for as long as possible.
Seeking Outside Care
When a loved one is ill, we want to care for them regardless of experience. When it comes to dementia, spouses and/or family members often assume the role of care partners. Acting as a care partner for a loved one with dementia is a noble choice; however, it’s important to recognize you cannot care for your loved one alone.
“Primary care partners need to be able to take breaks, to take care of themselves, to be healthy. They need to be able to fulfill their goals and personal needs. They need to have an opportunity to socialize,” Brush says. “Care partners who try to take on 100 percent of the responsibilities often become burnt out. They become resentful, stressed, sick. Having a care team is essential.”
Often, outside agencies can come into the home to assist care partners. Senior Independence, for example, is an affordable, Medicare certified provider of quality home health and home care services.
If you ever find yourself in the position of care partner, you must also realize there may come a time when you can no longer adequately care for your loved one at home. “Sometimes people feel that, if they need to move their loved ones to care communities, they haven’t done a good job. That’s not true. There is nothing wrong with saying you’re not able to care for someone in the home any more,” Brush says. “Moving them to a place where people are trained to take care of their needs means the person will have a health care team to meet their needs as well as opportunities to socialize.”
For more information on cognitive health, download our new eBook, “Keeping Your Brain Healthy as You Get Older” today.