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Journal socz's Journal: Making it safer for people with Alzheimer's at night

I tell people: "The best way to learn about Alzheimer's is to read about it." Some, like myself, could argue that things are best learned first hand. But this is something that you don't want to have to learn "first hand."

In taking care of someone who has Alzheimer's, I've discovered something a few years back that is VERY useful. Here's some background first.

Those who take care of people with Alzheimer's, more specifically those who have them in their homes (like family members) know that the night time can be VERY difficult. It's not unusual to say my loved one walks like a ghost in the night only to frighten anyone who sees them because they creep so quietly that you have no idea they're there until they're on top of you!

Leaving a light on can be a problem because it can keep other family members up. Leaving no lights on can be dangerous as the person with Alzheimer's could wake up and walk around (as they all do) and fall and hurt themselves. Many will just put a night light in the socket and hope for the best. Those lights generally don't provide enough light to get around safely (especially if the person has cataracts). So I looked for a better solution. You could always put a stronger bulb in the night light... But that bothers those who are sleeping (and caring/watching the person at night).

I came across a motion sensor for about $20 at Harbor Freight & Tools one day. I didn't expect it to work well for the price, but it did surprisingly well! I plugged the stronger bulbed night light into the motion sensor and Voilà! Now there is enough light to safely see a ghost walking around in the middle of the night AND it'll only turn on when it detects motion. But as you can imagine, this can still bother others sleeping in the same room with the constant on and off. So I had to come up with another device...

A few years ago I bought some lamps that had a translucent blue glass shade with an additional transparent glass shade outside of that. It's a modern looking lamp, and the shades look like a cylinder in another cylinder. So when you turned the lamp on, it looked awesome! So awesome, that the light blinded you because the blue glass wasn't thick/dense/dark enough to diffuse the light enough to not hurt your eyes. So I ended up modifying it. I cut some aluminum foil to the exact size of the inside cylinder and wrapped it around about 1/4 - 1/3 of the way around. This in effect blocked the light from coming at you directly and actually made the lamp look better as the lamp really lit up blue instead of blinding sky blue. This also helped with more directional light as the foil served as a reflector. (A friend even told me I should try to sell the design hah!).

So using that experience/knowledge, I bought some Japanese style paper lamps (the round ones). I hung the blue paper lamp (can you spot the trend?) just off from the corner of the bedroom. I cut some aluminum foil to size of the supporting metal bracket (a little frame that props the paper lamp "open") and wrapped that around the bulb about 80%-90% so that only a little light comes out the back. I purchased a very low watt soft florescent bulb (like 8 or 10 watts) and threw that in there.

The motion sensor I mounted in the very top corner of the bedroom and angled it downward. It helps that the person with Alzheimer's bed is in direct line of sight (this is useful). So whenever they move *in* bed, the light goes on. Just seeing the light is on puts them at ease and actually prevents them from getting out of bed to "see where they are." Obviously, when they DO get out of bed (naughty!) they're safe as they can see well enough to make out where to walk and what to avoid.

The best benefit of this set up, is because of the way the sensor is mounted and the lamp is hung, the person who sleeps in the same room and takes care of them can't trigger the motion sensor because the lamp is blocking them from it. So they can move about (even use their laptop when they should be sleeping! Naughty!) and not worry about turning the light on and waking up the sleeping person.

You would think such a thing would be the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with a person who has Alzheimer's, but it's not. Alzheimer's is something that can happen so quickly to some, that you really never have time realize/learn how to manage it until it's too late. You would also think that it'd be easy to find some sort of device that works just like this but isn't such a hassle. There isn't.

While searching for night lights that have motion detectors, day light sensor, battery back up and other random features I noticed that nothing like that exists. So for those of you who are hardware hackers, theres a freebie for you. Contact me if you want the designs!

Hopefully, someone somewhere will be able to use my ideas here and help make their life easier and safer for both them and their loved ones.
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Making it safer for people with Alzheimer's at night

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