As dementia progresses, symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and difficulty learning new skills make it challenging for individuals to navigate once familiar environments. While major renovations may not be feasible, there are many ways to adapt your home to support independence and quality of life. By implementing some of these tips, you can create a space that is both dementia-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
Proper lighting is key. Reduce shadows, glare, and reflections that can cause disorientation. Install bright, even lighting throughout the home. Increase natural daylight by opening curtains and clearing window obstructions. Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to prevent falls. Ensure bedrooms can be darkened for uninterrupted sleep. Avoid patterns and stripes that can be visually confusing.
Replace throw rugs with low-pile carpets to minimize tripping hazards. Select non-slip, matte flooring in a color that contrasts with the walls. Avoid high-shine surfaces that may appear wet or slippery. Clear clutter and ensure smooth transitions between rooms.
Colors and Contrasts
Strategically use color to define edges and boundaries within the home. For example, choose a toilet seat in a contrasting color to the rest of the bathroom. Pick boldly-colored furniture and furnishings that stand out against walls and floors. Use contrasting paint colors for doors, railings, and other navigation aids. Avoid color palettes that mimic real-life objects.
Signage and Cues
Post clear signs on doors and cabinets identifying the room or contents. Opt for large text coupled with recognizable pictures. Place signs slightly below eye-level. Use photographs or transparent doors to display storage contents. Labels can also designate frequently-used items like remotes.
Assistive Devices and Technology
Specialized products like user-friendly clocks, telephones with large buttons, and audible reminder systems allow for greater independence. Smartphone apps provide prompts for daily tasks like taking medication. When possible, select familiar, classic-style handles and controls over high-tech fixtures.
Reduce Excess Stimulus
Cut down on unnecessary background noise from televisions and radios. Limit mirrors that may cause confusion over identity. Close curtains in the evenings to avoid reflections. Remove clutter that contributes to distraction and disorientation.
Create an accessible, safe outdoor area with flat, non-slip walkways. Use motion sensor lighting at entrances. Install fencing to prevent wandering. Raised garden beds facilitate gardening. Provide covered seating areas for relaxation and socializing.
With some forethought and creativity, you can modify your home to be both dementia-friendly and beautiful. Small adaptations add up, enhancing comfort, safety and independence. Consult an occupational therapist to conduct a thorough assessment and identify problem areas. By making your home dementia-friendly, you can support quality of life as the disease progresses.