Dementia can rob seniors of not just their memories but also their independence, which can create difficulties for both seniors and their caregivers.
While memory care facilities are often an option for those with dementia, research shows that when dementia patients enter a care facility, they’re more likely to suffer a fall, experience delirium or endure other negative health issues, which makes keeping them independent and safe at home a priority for as long as possible.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to make your senior’s home a safe and comforting space as they deal with the effects of dementia, and a new tool from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America makes it easy to figure out what steps to take.
Check out ‘The Apartment’
The Apartment is a full-scale model of a dementia-friendly residence that shows the simple steps you can take to make your loved one’s living space safer and better-suited for their condition.
“Most homes were not designed with the needs of someone living with a dementia-related illness in mind, but virtually every aspect of a home can affect the person’s quality of life,” said AFA President and CEO Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. “From purchasing higher-tech appliances all the way down to labeling dresser drawers and putting up old family photos, there are a variety of adaptations family care partners can use to make their loved one’s home more dementia-friendly.”
Families and caregivers can watch a video walk-through of The Apartment or download a printable guide that details the changes made to The Apartment on AFA’s website.
Steps you can take at home
Using The Apartment as a guide, let’s look at some steps caregivers and families can take to make any home more dementia-friendly:
Decorate the front door
- Choose a distinctive and colorful decoration for the front door that’s easy to remember. This will help the senior identify their home when they’re coming in from outside.
- Paint the front door a color that contrasts with the interior walls to improve depth perception.
Choose the right colors
People with dementia can often become upset and agitated. One way to decrease those periods of agitation is to choose the colors in your loved one’s living space with care.
- Bright colors generally encourage energy and are stimulating to the senses—making them perfect for areas like the kitchen. However, they can impede sleep and rest in the bedroom. For areas dedicated to rest and relaxation, stick with calmer colors like blue.
- Color contrast is especially important in a home where someone with dementia lives. Contrasting colors help with visibility and depth perception. For example, if you have a rug on a dark floor, make sure it’s a lighter color like white or cream so it’s clearly visible. In the kitchen, create a definite contrast between the walls and the cabinets, and stay away from subtle shifts in color that can throw off depth perception.
Make technology your friend
From thermostats to timers to personal assistants, a variety of devices can help keep a senior with dementia in their home longer.
- Use a programmable thermostat that can be controlled from an app to make sure the temperature stays at a comfortable level even when a caregiver can’t be around.
- Smart home technology like adjustable lights and video doorbells can keep your loved one safe by keeping the house well-lit and monitoring who comes and goes from the home.
- Smart burners on the stove can limit the burner to temperatures lower than those that can light common cooking oils on fire. This allows seniors to continue to cook their own meals without the danger of an unintentional fire. Adding automatic fire extinguishers to the hood of the stove can also provide peace of mind.
Put safety first
- When it comes to furniture, look for tables and dressers with rounded corners to avoid bruises from unintentional bumps. If you can’t find rounded corners, look for rubber covers for pointy edges.
- An adjustable bed can make it easier for a senior with dementia to get in and out of bed without falling, and a fabric headboard provides style without the danger of a head injury from accidentally hitting their head in the middle of the night.
- If your loved one enjoys a rocking chair, be sure to purchase a self-locking chair to make it easier for them to sit down and stand up.
Make daily tasks easier
- Add knobs in a contrasting color to dressers and other drawers. Clearly label each drawer or cabinet with the name and a picture of what’s inside to jog the senior’s memory.
- Stock the kitchen with weighted silverware and an elevated plate to make eating easier.
- Purchase a simple remote control for the TV with programmable buttons for your loved one’s favorite channels.
- Provide your loved one with a phone with large buttons that are already programmed with the most-called numbers. Place photos of the person on the button programmed with their number.
Check out these other options
While keeping your loved one’s physical body safe is a high priority, it’s also important to provide them with a space that soothes their mind and soul. Decorate the senior’s home with items that are comforting to them—from photos of loved ones to memorabilia from their youth.
For more ideas to help make a home safe and welcoming for a senior with dementia, check out these related posts:
What home changes to make first after a dementia diagnosis
Activity box offers simple yet powerful way to meaningfully engage seniors with dementia
Older adults with dementia benefit from play, experts say
‘Dementia-friendly’ communities offer support, inclusion for seniors and caregivers