Everyday life can be very challenging for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. As the disease progresses, older adults begin to have even more trouble with mental issues such as remembering, reasoning, thinking, and processing.
While there’s not much caregivers can do to slow the progression of the disease, they can make simple adaptations at home that cause navigating and completing daily tasks to be much easier. This allows individuals to remain as independent as possible and goes a long way towards reducing their frustration and anxiety.
Here are some steps you can take to make the home area of your loved one or person you’re caring for more dementia-friendly:
1. Eliminate clutter. Those with dementia can get easily distracted. If too much clutter surrounds them, it is hard for them to find the items they need. Remove unnecessary items so they can focus on the items they use most frequently.
2. Pay attention to colors and patterns. Using contrasting colors within a living space can be helpful for those with dementia, allowing them to see what they need. For example, placing a white plate on a red placement will clearly show them where to eat. However, too much of a good thing can be a problem. Using too many décor patterns can create confusion, agitation, and too much visual stimulation – and can also make it difficult to see necessary objects.
3. Leave doors open and/or add simple signs. Those with dementia may not remember how to navigate around their home and can easily mix up rooms. By leaving interior doors open, the insides of rooms are visible. Putting up one-word signs (such as “food”) or pictures (such as of a toilet or bed), with an arrow pointing the way to these rooms, can make life so much easier for struggling adults. (On the other hand, if there are rooms that should be off-limits, keep those doors closed.)
4. Keep meaningful photos or keepsakes around. Pictures and mementos that evoke positive memories can help jog the memory and create healthy reminiscing.
5. Add orienting items. In the room where dementia patients spend most of their time, consider adding an easy-to-read clock and calendar that clearly show the time, day, and date. This can help support cognitive function and help them feel less confused.
6. Pay special attention to bathroom layout and décor. With so many shiny spaces and tasks to complete in a relatively small space, bathrooms can be especially challenging for those with dementia. Consider using a contrasting toilet seat cover to make it stand out, as well as a raised toilet seat to make it easier to stand or sit independently. Adding a highly visible toilet target inside the bowl can help older men keep the toilet area tidier while peeing. Also, clearly labeling hot and cold faucets can help prevent burns.
7. Be considerate of special challenges in the kitchen. Those with dementia will often open and close many kitchen cabinet drawers and doors because they can’t remember where things are kept. You could place signs or photos on the outside of certain cabinets to help them remember, or switch to glass doors for the cabinets. Keep counters clear of clutter as much as possible, and put frequently-used items front and center. Hide items you don’t want individuals to find, such as a pet bowl that causes them to want to repeatedly feed the cat. If you see them struggling to use common items like utensils or cups, consider getting adaptive items that improve grip.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make home adaptations that can be life-changing for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think of ways to make their days more pleasant and less stressful. It will make your life as a caregiver much easier, too!