Loved ones with memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s and other dementia are much more sensitive to and affected by their physical environment than the rest of us. The effects of dementia create new challenges in the home living environment and pose real dangers to people with the affliction.
Strategies for a Safer and Design Dementia Friendly Home Tips
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to provide loved ones with a safer home environment and a greater quality of life. Industry specialists in functional interior design agree there are basic strategies for reducing home risks and improving quality of life for people with dementia. These suggestions typically address such factors as lighting, stair safety, bathroom use, floor safety, appliance use, noise abatement, clutter reduction and outdoor spaces.
- Lighting — People with dementia are very susceptible to glare and to sudden changes in lighting levels. Ideally, lighting throughout the living space should be adequate, glare-free and as even as possible with no significant variations from one room to another. Avoid uncovered bulbs and always use lamp shades.
- Stair Safety – Use contrasting colors to clearly discern between the tread and the riser to highlight the stairway path. Also, having well secured hand rails on both sides gives loved ones stability as they walk up and down the stairs. Stair climbing can be beneficial in helping to increase their functioning.
- Bathroom Accommodations – Make the bathroom as wheelchair accessible as possible since toileting and bathing have such a substantial impact on your loved one’s quality of life. An accessible wheel-in shower can be extremely helpful for both the caregiver and the loved one.
- Floor Safety – Avoid polished floors that can be both slippery and disturbingly shiny to your loved one. Also, remove any area rugs and “doorsills”. They can significantly increase the risk of tripping and falling.
- Home Appliances – Eliminate access to, or very closely monitor, the use of any appliances that could be dangerous to your loved one such as an iron or stove. Make sure any appliances they use are both safe and easy to use. You may need to highlight where on/off buttons are for example.
- Noise Control – Individuals with dementia are hypersensitive to sound and can become easily agitated by things such as lawnmowers, blenders and hairdryers. In addition to “keeping the volume down” in the home, you may want to use ambient sounds that provide “white noise”, rolling waves and other relaxing options. Such background sounds can create a pleasant, soothing environment.
- Clutter Reduction – Dementia tends to create hoarding behaviors. Those with the disease can become anxious or agitated about their belongings disappearing. Therefore, work on clearing out the clutter slowly, but take care of the issues that create safety hazards immediately. Clutter that could increase fire and fall risks should be your priorities.
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