Dementia-Friendly Home Environment

One of the things that can be done to make a person with dementia feel more comfortable is to make their home environment feel safer. An effective way of doing this is to tailor the surroundings to their needs and ensure that all possible risks are minimised. In order to facilitate this, it can be helpful to ask for a needs assessment from your local council. They will arrange a visit to the home and attempt to identify anything that could help the person with dementia to cope with everyday activities more successfully. Other considerations for a dementia friendly home environment are shown below:

Labels and Signs

It is common that somebody with dementia can forget where certain items or rooms are in their own home. In order to remedy this, it can be helpful to put labels and signs on cupboards and doors around the home. This provides the person with a visual aid and makes it easier for them to orientate themselves around the house.

The signs and labels used should be clear, utilising words and pictures that are familiar to the person with dementia and should not contrast with the background that they are placed on. It may also be helpful to place the signs and labels lower than usual, as it is common for older people to direct their eyesight downwards.

If further prompts are needed, it can also be helpful to place pictures on cupboards and drawers that show what is inside of them. An example of this is placing a picture of cutlery on the cutlery draw which the person with dementia will be able to identify easily. In addition to this, see-through cupboards and drawers can also be very beneficial to a person with dementia as they can see what’s inside immediately.

Changing Perceptions

Dementia can affect how a person perceives different objects and provoke changes in their depth perception. Common examples of this are difficulty with contrasting colours, floor coverings and uneven surfaces. This can often lead to the person becoming disorientated and even tripping or falling over certain objects. Due to this, it is very important that anything that could potentially cause an accident in the home is amended or removed.

This can be facilitated by using bright or bold colours around the house that contrast with the environment. An example of this is fitting a colourful toilet seat that is easily noticeable to the person or using colourful plates and cutlery that make it easy for the person to see where their food is and what they can eat it with. Another consideration is that of mats and rugs that may be dotted around the house. If the covering blends in with the floor that it is on, it is possible that it can be perceived as a hole or a raised surface by the person with dementia. This perception may result in them trying to navigate around the area and end up falling or hurting themselves. Therefore, it is worthwhile to remove anything that could cause this problem or replace the coverings with others that contrast with the environment.

Small changes such as these can make a substantial difference to a person with dementia and enable them to feel more self-sufficient and build their confidence within their own home.

Dementia-Friendly Household Items

There are a range of products that have been designed with dementia and other similar afflictions in mind. These products are often known as assistive technology and make it easier for people living with dementia to operate on a daily basis. Examples of these appliances are clocks with extra-large LCD displays which show the time, day and date, telephones with big, standout buttons and reminder devices which provide audio prompts to help the person to remember to take their medication. Specific, easy-to-use apps for smartphones and tablets can also help to make life easier.

It may also be the case that the person with dementia prefers traditional fixtures and fittings, such as taps, a toilet flush or bath plugs. These appliances may be more recognisable to the person and allow them to feel at ease when using them. It is possible to purchase assistive technology like the above from specific outlets such as the Alzheimer’s Society online shop and Living Made Easy.

Lighting Considerations

It is important to ensure that a person with dementia has sufficient lighting within their home. Without this, there is an increased risk of the person becoming confused and falling or tripping over. Sufficient lighting is particularly important on the stairs and in the toilet, where a high majority of accidents occur. In order to ensure this, all light switches should be easily accessible for the person and free of any trip hazards.

Although it is not always possible to increase the amount of natural light available to the home, practices can be put in place to make it as light as possible. This includes ensuring all curtains are open, removing any unnecessary nets or blinds that may be stopping sunlight and ensuring that all hedges or trees that are blocking sunlight are trimmed sufficiently.

Automatic light sensors that trigger lights to come on when the person passes by can also be a good addition to a dementia-friendly home. It may be also be helpful to minimise the reflections around the home, as they can be distressing to a person with dementia if they are unable to recognise themselves. Closing curtains in the evening and covering or removing mirrors can help to avoid this occurrence.

For more information on a dementia friendly home environment please click here.

For more information on a needs assessment, please click here.

For more information on assistive technology, please click here.