Alzheimers Feng Shui and the Dad and Me Series Part 1, Room Layout
Dad and Me Recently involved with Alzheimer's? Is Mom or Dad about to move, or recently moved, into a memory care facility? Are you "right in the middle", not providing direct care but responsible for just about everything else: pick the facility, pay the bills, transport to/from the doctor, etc.? Then this article is for you. If you are an Alzheimer's direct care giver already then, aside from qualifying for special sainthood, this will confirm much of what you already know. But who knows, you may learn something too.
What this isn't is another article about the actual disease, per se. If you want to learn more about that research the internet at websites such as webmd.com, wikipedia.org, mayoclinic.org, alzheimers.org, to name a few. Or check out the many books, websites, forums, and even support groups for patient care, family support, techniques and standards-of-care for the caregiver, end-of-life considerations, and other related subjects, even memory supplements, brain foods and the like.
A Little Background Dad, in mid-to-late-stage Alzheimer's, is 84, resides in a memory care facility where his day-to-day care is provided by the staff. As is so often the case Dad, while in a state of constant gradual mental decline, is physically quite healthy, able to perform most daily activities without assistance: eat, bathe, go to the bathroom, although not without being prompted and supervised. Mentally, he is conversant, funny, watches TV, laughs, and cries. But he can't remember his age, what day it is, his deceased wife's, siblings', children's, grandchildren's, or friends' names. I, his eldest son, am "a guy he really likes because I come and visit". I take him to his doctor appointments, out to lunch, to church, etc. He senses a connection but he's just not sure what it is.
This is about about Dad and Me and what I wish I had been told before becoming responsible for him as well as what I've learned since. This is about stuff they don't tell you about, gleaned from my own personal journey with Dad. Things I didn't know to even ask about and never expected to have to deal with. You can't make this stuff. It's is real and true with no fictional, composite characters. Stuff learned through mistakes made, trial and error, even altered assumptions. Without a doubt, THERE IS MUCH THAT HASN'T BEEN WRITTEN about the day-to-day, mundane aspects of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's.
The All Important Room Layout A hard and fast list difficult to compile given the different situations you find yourself in. But, here are some things we as family learned about selecting, setting up, and organizing Dad's room.
1. Minimize the number of rooms. Less is more. Dad's living space is exactly 2 rooms: One room large enough to accommodate his recliner, bed, and couch, all in separate areas of the room, a small desk, open shelves, and a small TV mounted on a swing arm for viewing in bed or in the easy chair. The other room? The bathroom and that's it. Corridors leading to doors, to many rooms is just confusing and stressful. Keep it simple.
2. Easy access, easily seen. Orient pajamas, shoes, clothing, socks, belts, and other daily worn items, such that they are easy to access and easy to see. No cabinet doors or dresser drawers. Dad's "personal stuff" (books, stuffed animals, etc) is on a shelving unit with large, open, and easily accessible shelves with no doors. Ditto with his clothes. No doors or obstructions blocking the view of where stuff is. Shoes sit in the open at the foot of the bed.
After an initial attempt organizing and labeling shelves and doors, we realized it didn't as Dad still found it confusing. He may find an item but it never got put back "in the right place". Visibility and accessibility eliminated the problem altogether. Labeling and organizing is a thing of the past.
3. Bathroom Feng Shui, harmonious simplification. In the bathroom, simplify the sink-top area with only 1 comb, 1 razor, 1 toothbrush, and so on. Keep extra items such as toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant, bar soap, etc. again, in open shelving or wire grid shelves, bins, or drawers. Again, simplify.
4. Make running the TV as easy as possible. Powering the TV on and off, the cable box controls, changing channels, became frustrating, difficult, ultimately impossible for Dad. Our high tech solution? Cover all but power on/off, volume up/down, channel up, channel down buttons with masking tape thus eliminating the confusion. There are also new, elderly-friendly remotes available. In any event, simplify and end the confusion.
5. Remove all room obstructions. Place all obstacles as in area rugs, coffee tables, phone cords, chairs, etc. to the perimeter of the room. Keep the center area of the room obstruction free. Now that Dad gets up at 1am, get dressed, and ask for breakfast. One time he tripped on an area rug. The rug's now gone.
Up next? The billfold crisis, credit cards and money, the family photo album. Until then.