Guide: The home of the Alzheimer's sufferer
Barcelona, 24 October 2002
In addition to the cognitive deterioration that Alzheimer’s entails, ageing itself leads to a reduction in activity and in general independence in patients due to the decline in their organic, somatic and intellectual functions and capacities. It becomes difficult for the sufferer to undertake domestic chores and everyday tasks, and the risk of having an accident in the home is considerably increased. Adapting the sufferer’s home to suit their needs improves their quality of life as well as that of their carers. To this end, ”la Caixa” Foundation has published the Guía de arquitectura. Adaptación y habilitación de la vivienda para personas con Alzheimer y deficiencias de movilidad [Architecture Guide. Adapting and Fitting out the Home for People with Alzheimer’s and Reduced Mobility] .. The publication, made possible by the collaboration between professionals and patients’ relatives, includes a series of proposals and other aspects on adapting the home in a practical and effective manner without incurring major costs.
Non-pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer’s have shown themselves to be extremely effective in patient care, as they contribute towards improving the quality of sufferers’ lives and help them to overcome the difficulties they face each day through re-education in behaviour in those areas where this is still possible. These non-pharmacological therapies are first applied in the patient’s domestic environment. However, for such treatments to be effective, it is necessary to adapt the home to the sufferer’s physical and cognitive condition. The result is that patients’ difficulties are minimised and compensated for, to the extent that it is much easier for them to cope in their own homes and to do certain everyday tasks with a degree of independence.
The prevailing atmosphere in the home of an Alzheimer’s sufferer should be such that they can participate to the fullest extent possible in family and everyday activities and should have an impact on the behaviour disorders typical of Alzheimer’s: wandering, passiveness, aggression, etc. Furthermore, a tranquil domestic environment will help to calm them and improve their frame of mind, and will also prevent their level of confusion from rising.
Safety, comfort and accessibility. These are the three premises that the home of an Alzheimer’s sufferer should comply with. To achieve this, it is sufficient to remove barriers and obstacles, to rearrange objects and items of furniture, to adapt certain technical solutions available on the market, and simply to alter the time and order in which certain tasks are done.
In most cases, organising the home of an Alzheimer’s patient adequately is not so much a question of money as of making the right choices from the available solutions and of anticipating the problems that may arise as the disease progresses.
The Guía de arquitectura. has emerged from the experience of ”la Caixa” Foundation in the sphere of care for Alzheimer’s sufferers and has been drawn up with the collaboration of health professionals and patients’ families. Even though it is aimed in particular at carers of people with Alzheimer’s disease, this publication may also prove extremely useful for anyone looking to make the home of an elderly person more suitable and comfortable.
The Guía de arquitectura. Adaptación y habilitación de la vivienda para personas con Alzheimer y deficiencias de movilidad. is available free of charge in Catalan and Spanish and has been distributed amongst all Alzheimer’s patient associations in Spain.
”la Caixa” Foundation Alzheimer’s programme
It has been calculated that there are almost 700,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers in Spain. This neurodegenerative disease represents a health and social challenge that is difficult to resolve without the direct participation of all the different groups of people involved: families, health staff and the authorities. ”la Caixa” Foundation has been running a programme on Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases since 1996.
This comprehensive programme aims to provide information on the magnitude of the disease and to improve, as far as possible, the living conditions of those affected. To achieve this, there are four different general areas in the programme that complement and link into each other: patient care; support and information for the family; awareness raising amongst young people concerning the disease; and research.
In the sphere of patient care,”la Caixa” Foundation has established collaboration accords with numerous public and private bodies throughout the country. Since 1996, the Fundació has signed 400 agreements with patient care associations around Spain concerned with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
To promote support for the family,”la Caixa” Foundation has developed a broad programme of activities, ranging from seminars and talks that look at various aspects of the disease to practical matters related to problems carers may face at some point. In addition, the Fundació organises activities designed to offer carers a period of rest and relaxation.
”la Caixa” Foundation has produced stories, games and comics aimed at young people who live close to the disease to help them come to a greater understanding of the situation.
Lastly, another of the notable areas of this programme to support research financially is the Competition for Grants for Research into Neurodegenerative Diseases. ”la Caixa” Foundation has organised six of these bids for financial aid since 1997 and has awarded grants to 55 Spanish research teams who have, between them, received total aid amounting to 4.7 million euros.
Each of these programme areas has two ultimate aims: to raise society’s awareness of the issue of neurodegenerative diseases and to improve patients’ quality of life.