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Setting up a Alzheimer’s- and dementia-friendly home

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you are most likely facing many changes in your life. The last thing you might feel like is also changing your home. Here are some tips and ideas for making the home space easier for both you and the person you are caring for, without losing comfort or breaking the budget.

Safety first

You can make some simple changes to make your home a lot safer for everyone. If there are hazardous spaces such as a garage or tool shed, keep the doors locked at all times. You might consider adding child locks to cupboards containing medications or chemicals such as cleaners.

Make sure your loved one can get around their home easily. Do an audit for any slip or trip hazards, and you’ll probably discover a few electrical cords to be tied back or flooring to be secured. Motion sensor lighting is a great addition to key areas such as the main entrance, driveways and hallways.

“At Harvest at Fowler assisted care, we like to make sure our residents have independence, yet make small changes to keep them safe”, says Harvest at Fowler Care Coordinator, Rosa. “We keep our water temperature at below 120 degrees, and we use ‘classroom door locks’ which can be locked on the inside for privacy, but opened quickly in an emergency”.

Calm space for a calm mind

Living with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be frustrating and stressful, so a well-designed space can help keep the mind calm.

When designing interiors, keep rooms clutter free and avoid lots of clashing patterns and colors – these can be confusing and sometimes appear to ‘jump out’ to people with dementia. According to Alzheimer’s UK, dementia can affect how well people can tell the difference between colors, so it can help to contrast the colors of bedding and flooring and to paint doors a different color to the walls.

In the bathroom and bedroom, stick to the same sheet and towel sets for easy recognition. The NHS UK also recommends using soft furnishings such as cushions and rugs to absorb background noise – just ensure the rugs fixed to the ground with a non-slip mat underneath.

Fill rooms with nice light during the day, using open curtains and clean windows. When it is time to wind down in the evenings, close the curtains and turn on warm, cozy lamps. “Having special day time and night time lighting can help maintain routines”, explains Rosa. “People with dementia and Alzheimer’s like the feel of nice lighting in the evenings just like all of us”.

Make things easy

Making the little things easier leaves more time and headspace to enjoy life. If there are two things you should look at changing in your bathroom it should be the bath and shower and the flooring. If you can change a bath to a walk-in shower with hand rails, this will make the daily bathing ritual stress-free. The NHS UK recommends you also consider taking out any shiny floor tiling – these can be confused for wet floors.

To keep organized, design a nice notice board or whiteboard with pens for daily reminders and a weekly schedule. Some friendly labels on cupboards and doors can also be useful, and the NHS UK recommends having a clock with a large LED display.

Kitchens are the spot where many of us forget where things are. “I recommend removing doors or having glass doors on cabinets so it is easy to see what’s inside”, says Rosa. “We find this especially important when someone has moved to a new space.”

Listen and consult

Finally, make the design process fun without overwhelming your loved one. Get their opinions on colors and patterns, and ask them what bothers or annoys them. Helping to choose the right personal items such as perfume, artworks and photos can be very important to create a comforting space.

And don’t neglect the importance of the garden or an outdoor space. This can be a great place for your loved one to have some creative control, to spend time in, and to choose a calming element such as a water feature or bird bath.

“We love to involve our residents in looking after our garden as they end up spending many hours just soaking in the sun, doing some pruning or getting a little exercise”, says Rosa.