An environment that was once recognisable, can soon become one which is unfamiliar to a person who has dementia. Instead, it is now a space which lacks familiarity and becomes filled with hazards as dementia progresses.
Yet, it is possible for those who have dementia to live in their own property safely and receive the care they need, if adaptations to the home are made.
By creating the right home environment, those with dementia and their loved ones can ensure that the space is safe and secure, and a welcoming and comforting space that allows a person with dementia to maintain their independence and remain in a somewhat memorable environment.
Below are five areas of the home that you will want to change in order to create a safe home environment for someone who has dementia from Hales Care.
The kitchen has the potential to become one of the most dangerous rooms in the home – scalding water, gas, sharp objects and unfamiliar cooking equipment can be a confusing combination for someone who has dementia, leading to an increased risk of injury.
In the kitchen, your aim should be to remove any hazardous items from reach and make it a space where simple tasks can be carried out independently or with some supervision. Steps such as labelling hot and cold taps, removing knives and adding instructions to items such as the kettle and toaster will add familiarity and remove danger.
Everyday items should be kept to hand such as the kettle, mugs, tea and milk, with food items stored in plastic containers if possible, as this will remove confusing packaging from the equation too.
Large volumes of water and slippery surfaces, the bathroom is an area which can be dangerous if it has not been modified.
Movement aids should be added around the room such as near the bath or shower and toilet, to reduce the risk of slipping on a wet floor and to aid with getting up from the toiler or out of the bath.
A flood safe plug in the sink or bath can be used to reduce the risk of flooding when water has been left running for too long, as it will automatically open when the water has reached a certain level.
Removing locks from doors will also ensure that the room can accessed during an emergency.
Throughout the home you should take care to remove any trip hazards, however, you may not realise that the colour of flooring can impact dementia and lead to a confused state of mind – something which can be avoided with some changes.
Any uneven materials underfoot should be removed – such as rugs and door mats as these could cause a person to trip if not secured correctly. Exposed carpet grips and floorboard nails should be repaired, and used in the same colours to the rest of the flooring so that it cannot be confused with a loose object on the floor.
Neutral or block colours should be used for flooring as any patterns may look as though there is a hazard in the way leading a person to fall or become confused as they move through the room.
Lighting helps us all have visibility around the home, however by improving the lighting throughout your property it will greatly improve recognition of everyday objects and reduce an opportunity for confusion to set in when confronted with a dimly lit room.
Installing dimmer switches throughout the home will give more flexibility over how light a room is, and adding lots of smaller light sources will allow you to focus light in the areas which need it most.
Natural light sources should be improved where possible – therefore any objects blocking windows should be removed and curtains or blinds pushed back so they do not obstruct the light.
While you want to maximise light, installing blackout blinds in bedrooms will help to improve sleep.
5. Improve recognition throughout
Throughout the home you will need to seek to create an environment which is recognisable, and removes any elements which could cause confusion. This includes photographs of family and friends, as well as items such as mirrors as someone who has dementia can lose the ability to recognise loved ones as well as themselves.
Items which are required everyday should be made readily available such as keys, emergency contact details and instructions for everyday objects. Daily tasks can be written on boards as a reminder that they need to be completed – even jobs such as drinking and washing etc.
By making simple changes around the home a person who has dementia is able to live independently in their own home with the right support.