How to make your home dementia-friendly


In honour of September being World Alzheimer’s Month, our Consultus Care Training Centre share their tips to help make a home more dementia-friendly.**

Dementia is a term which is used to describe a collection of symptoms including memory loss, problems with reasoning and communication skills and a reduction in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities such as washing and dressing. Symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 62% of all cases. 

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative illness that attacks the brain. During the course of the disease, toxic proteins called ‘tangles’ and ‘plaques’ develop, leading to the death of brain cells, which means that information cannot be recalled or understood. The disease can be divided into three stages; in its early phases, the symptoms can be subtle but as the disease progresses, the changes will become more dramatic until the person can no longer care for themselves. 

Understandably, many people with Alzheimer’s disease wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but as they progress through the stages of the disease they find everyday tasks become increasingly difficult. Using equipment and making adaptations to the home environment can assist someone with Alzheimer’s disease to remain independent for as long as possible and also help to keep them safer.

Suggested tips:

  • In addition to making it easier for people with dementia to get around the house, good lighting is also exceptionally important when it comes to preventing falls. It is important to make sure that there is plenty of natural light in the daytime, and at night leave the light on in the bathroom to help the individual find the toilet more easily. A night light in the bedroom may also be useful.
  • Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can help to safety within the home. Your local fire service can provide free home safety visits.
  • Using signs or labels on doors can help to remind a person with Alzheimer’s Disease where the toilet, bedroom or kitchen are located.
  • Using contrasting colours around the home is a good way of making doorways and furniture easier to locate and identify. For example: a toilet lid and seat which contrasts with the colour of the pan or handtowels that are a different colour to the bathroom walls.
  • Avoid patterns where possible. Some patterns and surfaces can cause problems for people with Alzheimer’s. Patterned carpets can be mistaken for uneven ground.
  • Be mindful of shiny surfaces and mirrors. These can be confusing as the person may not realise that what they are seeing is a reflection.
  • Keep important items in the same place to aid memory, such as keys, money, notebooks and telephone or address book. Consider trying a locator device; an electronic tag can be attached to an item and if mislaid, a button can be pressed on the locator device that will signal the electronic tag to beep.
  • Having a large, easy-to-read calendar, diary or whiteboard on which to write reminders can help to remind the individual of any important appointments or events.

An Occupational Therapist can carry out an assessment of the individual and their home and provide specific advice and support as to how to proceed. This could include things like installing equipment to aid independence (such as a grab rail or a raised toilet seat) or tools to aid eating (such as light-handled cutlery).  A referral to an Occupational Therapist can be made via the client’s doctor (GP).

Assistive technology can also help clients with Alzheimer’s in their daily activities:

  • Calendar clocks can help orientate a client as to the date, day and time.
  • Automatic sensor lights can help to prevent trips or falls.
  • Water isolation devices can turn off taps that have been left running to reduce the risk of flooding.
  • Automatic shut-off devices can be fitted to stop the gas supply. This is particularly helpful if the client regularly leaves the gas cooker on.

For further information:

Credit - Senior Living, Dementia UK & Alzheimer’s Society.

** Obviously, none of these changes should be put in place without discussion and full permission from the client or their family.

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