Below is a guest post on a subject matter that touches so many of us. My own father-in-law is a dementia sufferer and I have had a first row seat to witness the challenges living in a home that is not designed to accommodate the illness presents. As a professional designer, I have an interest in addressing the design of living spaces for adults impacted by Alzheimers that will provide easier living conditions for all in the household.
Here is a recent remodel of a master bath that is universal design compliant so my clients can age in place without issue.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
You may think living with Alzheimer’s means living in a sterile, nursing home-style environment. However, one of the hottest trends in home remodeling is “universal design,” which means creating an environment that allows homeowners to enjoy their homes at any age. That includes living well into their golden years, and accommodating the mental and physical decline that can come with aging. Those same modifications can apply when making homes safer and more accessible to people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
More of us are caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and this means making appropriate home modifications to meet loved ones’ needs. As pointed out by the experts at Redfin, “Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.4 million Americans, about 5.2 million of which are 65 and older. It can be your grandparent, your cousin, your sibling or even your parent who faces the diagnosis. Eventually, those with Alzheimer’s require round-the-clock care, and for many families, that means taking the loved one into their own home.” Thankfully, with universal design options, you can meet those needs in ways that are not only safe, but livable and fashionable.
Studies show Alzheimer’s disease erodes judgment, balance, memory, general behavior, and basic senses like hearing and vision. Because of the effects of the disease, some experts advise making important modifications to reduce risks while keeping your loved one independent, such as:
- Eliminate steps. At least one entryway to the home should be free of steps.
- One-floor living. The main floor of the house should include at least one bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen conveniences.
- Doorways and hallways. Doorways throughout the main living area should be free of thresholds and should be a minimum of forty-two inches wide.
- Flooring. Replace carpeting with slip-resistant flooring, such as hardwood floors or linoleum.
- Floor space. Open floor plans are a benefit to those with mobility issues. Reducing clutter and broadening walkways helps reduce the risk of tripping or falling.
- Easy-to-use handles. Doorknobs and faucet handles should be replaced with lever handles.
- Controls and switches. Place thermostats at lower levels, add a remote control, or add devices or apps which allow for voice control. Switches should be placed at heights accessible from a wheelchair, generally forty-two to forty-eight inches off the floor. Similarly, install electrical outlets higher for easier accessibility.
- Lighting. Improving lighting throughout the home is a simple and important step toward safety. Add light fixtures, install brighter bulbs, and add nightlights to enhance safety for those with failing vision or to help those suffering with disorientation.
- Bathroom. A taller, hands-free toilet and walk-in shower improve independence and safety. Installing grab bars and a seat for the shower are also important selections.
- Countertops and sinks. Opt for shallower designs to keep things easier to reach.
The AARP notes that most of us want to remain at home as long as possible, and with that in mind, home styles are favoring designs that allow people of all ages and abilities to remain comfortable, mobile and safe in their living arrangements. For those who are caregiving to Alzheimer’s patients, that means stylish options can accommodate your loved one on all fronts. As explained by some professionals, it’s an opportunity to choose aesthetically pleasing but also practical solutions for living independently as long as possible.
Here’s the most exciting part: thanks to modern trends, functional equipment is more fashion-friendly than you think. Even grab bars offer a spa-style appeal coupled with safety and support. As The Wichita Eagle explains, “Many of today’s grab bars are cleverly disguised, looking instead like sleek soap dishes, functional shampoo trays, trendy towel racks and even toilet-paper holders.”
Safety marries fashion. If you thought home modifications for the elderly meant giving in to an institutional, sterile environment, think again. Homes can be safe, accessible and fashionable. Thanks to the trend of universal design, caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients can meet their loved one’s needs effectively and beautifully.