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What I learned keeping home safe for my husband

What I learned keeping home safe for my husband

After my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I decided to do everything in my power to keep him at home as long as possible. Home could help him connect to his past and maintain a sense of who he was.

I learned quickly that this decision meant I needed to adapt to the unique interests and abilities of my husband to encourage whatever independent skills he had left while making home a safe place.

For example, Reg always enjoyed fixing things around the house. For safety,  I kept his tools stored out of his sightline in drawers and cupboards. But I did allow him to continue using them so long as I supervised.

Another tip I picked up helped Reg find his way home. His favourite colour was always bright red. So to help him recognize his house coming home from a walk or drive, I painted the door that colour.

Inside the house, I didn’t have to worry as much about mobility as he was physically able to get around. But I did need to make sure that the stairs and hallways were clutter-free. If he was walking around and not paying attention, I wanted to make sure there was nothing for him to trip on.

Although these approaches worked for a time, I had to continue to make changes as the disease progressed. Keep in mind that abilities like reaction time, balance, sight, memory, judgment and insight deteriorate in a person with dementia and you will need to adapt the living environment to those changes.

For more help about keeping the person you care for safe around the home, I encourage you to visit the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s website. Their home safety checklist is a great place to start in developing your home safety plan.

reg-togetherSusan Bithrey

Caregiver and Champion for Dementia

Answer the world’s call: travel advice from caregiver Susan Bithrey

Answer the world’s call: travel advice from caregiver Susan Bithrey

The world is always beckoning for us to leave the comfort and safety of home, whether it’s to visit friends, family or see a new place. For those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, this need is no different, although it comes with challenges.

Susan Bithrey was one caregiver who travelled a lot with her husband Reg, even after he was diagnosed with dementia.  Although they loved living in Thunder Bay, they had many reasons to leave: family in Alberta and Southern Ontario, a medical specialist in Toronto and post-retirement wanderlust to name a few.

“Mostly I just used common sense:  watch carefully, don’t overwhelm him with too much input, and rely on the kindness of strangers if necessary,” Susan recalls.

When Reg was in the early stages of the disease, it wasn’t so difficult to manage. “I kept a bit sharper eye out for possible problems,” Susan explains. “ I always packed a list of his meds, my legal documents, and made sure to have contact numbers for relatives, doctors, etc. in case of an emergency.”

But it became more difficult when Reg’s condition deteriorated.  Susan became much more cautious about travel, choosing destinations that were familiar not only to him, but to herself so that she could navigate easily if something went wrong. They visited cities where they had relatives or good friends for back up.

To keep travelling fun and incident-free, Susan offers the following advice:

  • Inform the hotel concierge/front desk that your travel companion has Alzheimer’s disease and provide them with an information package with his description, a photo, names he responds to and his preferred places of interest.
  • Always take note of what she is wearing.
  • On long car trips, stop frequently and take a brisk stroll for some exercise.
  • For airport and highway restrooms, use family washrooms whenever possible. If not, try to find one with only one exit.
  • Even familiar places can look strange. Take time to reintroduce her to the environment by altering your routine as little as possible.
  • Choose activities and places she might enjoy, such as an art gallery or a conservatory, which stimulate the senses but also have security staff at exits

 

How do you cope travelling with someone with dementia? Share your story below.

Visit our website to find more advice for travelling.

reg-togetherSusan Bithrey, Caregiver