Caregivers are the unsung heroes of our families. As loved ones get older and suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating disorders, family caregivers give up their lives and free time to take care of the people they love.
But being a caregiver is extremely stressful and can take a serios toll on the body. Caregivers are often so worried about their charges that they don’t take care of their own health. Doctor visits, meals, and exercise get skipped, and sleep becomes a distant memory. If you’re a new caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, don’t let this happen to you.
Your home can be made more accessible to your family member with just a few simple changes. Take a look around and make sure that all chemicals and tools are put away in a safe place. Clear your counters of food and utensils that can be dangerous, such as knives. Consider removing the knobs on your stove or installing a gas shutoff. Small appliances should have an auto shutoff feature, too.
Consider remodeling your kitchen and bathroom to make them more accessible. Having a kitchen with lots of storage can ease your stress and be more accommodating. Remodeling your bathroom can make it easier for your elderly loved one. Step-in bathtubs are much easier to get in and out of, and they prevent dangerous falls. The average cost to remodel a kitchen is $19,589, and the average bathroom remodel is $8,820.
Make sure your fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are in working order. Lock cabinets or use child-safety devices to keep your loved one from getting into things that could be dangerous. Remove decorative fruits that might appear edible to someone with dementia. Remove door locks on interior doors such as the bathroom or bedroom so your charge doesn’t accidentally lock him or herself in.
Alzheimer’s patients can show poor judgment, so make your home as safe as possible. Install alarms on exterior doors and remove or lock unused vehicles and bicycles so that loved ones don’t wander off. Consider getting a baby monitor so that you can hear if they are in trouble. If you have a pool, install a fence or other safety devices to prevent access. Use passwords on your computer to prevent access so that your files don’t get wiped. Turn down the temperature on your water heater to prevent scalding.
Consider outsourcing jobs around the house, such as housekeeping or yard work. You need all the energy you can to concentrate on your own life while managing your Alzheimer’s patient. Don’t be afraid to ask other family members and friends for help. Accepting help, especially for respite care, is something that many of us struggle with. When help is offered, don’t refuse it.
Take care of yourself, too. Don’t blow off doctor appointments that you might need, and don’t ignore health issues. If you’re not healthy and strong, you can’t help your loved one. Good nutrition and healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, will keep you strong.
Most importantly, spend quality time with your ailing family member. Talk to him or her and enjoy the time together. Those rare moments of lucidity, when your loved one remembers you, will make all the work worth it. And you’ll have precious memories of your loved one for a lifetime.