If you are living with or caring for a person with Dementia, it’s important to know how the layout of their home can impact them. A person with Dementia will typically have a number of symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion and difficulty learning new things. This can lead to them forgetting where they are (even inside their own home) and not remembering how to use things that they always have.
For a person with Dementia, making considerable changes to the home overnight can be overwhelming. However, there are a few simple things that you can do to alter the home so that the person with Dementia feels more comfortable in it and they can continue living independently at home for as long as possible.
1. Ensure Flooring is Safe
In the home of someone with Dementia, it’s best not to have rugs or mats on the floor. This is because the person with Dementia can become confused and think they have to step over the object on the floor, which can lead to trips or falls. In addition, shiny or reflective flooring should also be avoided, as the person with Dementia may think that it is wet and struggle to walk over it.
The most appropriate flooring for the home of someone with Dementia will be a block colour in a matt finish. It is also advisable that the colour of the flooring contrasts with the walls to minimise the chance of confusion.
2. Pay Attention to Lighting
Appropriate lighting can help to avoid confusion and reduce the risk of falls for people with Dementia and older adults in general. Good lighting is particularly important on the stairs and in the bathroom of the home of someone with Dementia. Ensure that light switches are accessible and easy to use, or alternatively, you can consider using automatic light sensors that turn on the lights when someone passes the sensor.
In a more general sense, lighting in the home should be even, reducing glare, shadows and reflections as much as possible. Natural light is best, so ensure curtains are open during the day, there are no unnecessary blinds drawn during the day, and hedges and trees in the garden don’t block the sunlight getting to the window.
3. Reduce Reflections
Reflective surfaces can cause confusion for a person with Dementia. It’s important to check the position of mirrors in the home, and cover them or remove them completely if they are bothering the person with Dementia. It can also help to ensure curtains are closed in the evening so the person with Dementia can’t see reflections in the glass of the window.
4. Use Contrasting Colours
Dementia can affect how well a person can tell the difference between colours. If this seems to be an issue for someone in your care, you should try to paint the walls or change the flooring so that the colours contrast. Furniture and furnishings are another consideration. Having items such as beds, tables and chairs in bright or bold colours that contrast with the walls and floors can be helpful.
It may also be useful to ensure smaller items contrast, such as a toilet seat in a contrasting colour to the rest of the bathroom, or crockery that stands out from the tablecloth so that the person with Dementia can better define the edges of plates and dishes. Bold patterns and stripes can be confusing and disorientating for a person with Dementia and as such, should typically be avoided in their home.
5. Reduce Noise
Noise levels that are usually acceptable for others may distress or disorientate a person with Dementia. As such, it can be useful to try to keep noise to a minimum in the home of someone with Dementia. If the home has laminate or wooden flooring, walking across the room can be quite loud. Soft furnishings such as carpets, cushions and curtains are perfect for absorbing background noise. In addition, turning the television or radio off if nobody is paying attention to it is another way of reducing background noise.
6. Consider Using Labels and Signs
Putting labels and signs on cupboards and doors can be useful for someone with Dementia, for example, having a ‘Toilet’ sign on the bathroom or toilet door. It can also be helpful to put photos on cupboards and drawers that show what’s inside them. Any signs that you use should be clear with words and a relevant picture. They should also be placed slightly lower than normal, as older people tend to look downwards.
7. Attend to Gardens and Outdoor Spaces
People with Dementia enjoy and benefit from getting some fresh air and exercise outside. If the home has an outdoor area, ensure walking surfaces are flat to prevent accidents such as trips and falls. It’s important to ensure outdoor spaces are secure with gates and fences to prevent the person with Dementia from wandering off. Outdoor seating areas can help the person stay outside for longer and entrances to the garden should be well lit so that the person can find their way around easily.
For more information on this article, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks. If you’re caring for someone with Dementia, you may find the Dementia Live® course beneficial. The course gives you the opportunity to experience what it is like to have Dementia, in order to gain a greater understanding of how the person in your care is feeling and why they may act in a certain way.