How to design the optimal home environment for people with dementia

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Aging in place, or remaining in a familiar home environment during the later years of life, is often beneficial for people with dementia. However, as dementia progresses, the home may no longer be fully suited to your loved one’s needs.

Healthcare designer Barbara J. Ouellet shared several solutions for changing the home environment to improve the safety and comfort of a loved one with dementia. Huelat has spent his career implementing design principles that support healing, comfort, and safety. Through her personal experience, she has a special interest in supportive environments for people with dementia and their carers.Ouellet recently collaborated with her daughter Sharon T. Pokron on the Calming the chaos of dementia: A caregiver’s guide to transformative interventions.

“Science shows that even though people with dementia lose cognitive function, they do not lose their ability to enjoy life, love and be loved, laugh, cry, and form relationships,” Uelato and Pokron wrote. There is.

Principles of home design for dementia

Two important ideas to keep in mind when preparing a home environment for someone with dementia are:

  1. Supports physical needs.

  2. Evokes positive emotions.

“Create a safe and comfortable environment. This includes making sure your home is well-lit, clutter-free, and easy to navigate. Avoid potential hazards, such as sharp objects and trip hazards. It is also important to remove it,” Ouellet said.

Make the most of natural light

To maximize natural light in your living area, keep windows clean and curtains open during the day.

“Natural light is important for people with dementia because older eyes need more light to see,” Ouellet says. “And when you add dementia on top of age, it becomes even more important.”

People with dementia need three times more light than people with normal vision. “This is important because people with dementia can become frightened and confused if they can’t see things correctly,” Ouellet says.

Avoid shadows and glare

You may need to use higher wattage light bulbs or additional lamps to brighten spaces for seniors. To avoid glare from excess light, use warm white light bulbs, indirect light sources, and remove reflective surfaces.

“Glare creates a shape, but people with dementia can’t understand what it is. For people with dementia, it’s scary at night when they think they see something that isn’t really there.” said Ouellet.

Also, be aware of the shadows cast by the movement of the ceiling fan. Shadows can be confusing and frightening for people with dementia.

reduce mirrors

While having a mirror above the bathroom sink is useful and expected, consider removing mirrors in other areas of the home.

“Reflective surfaces such as mirrors, windows, and glass doors are common triggers because they can display disturbing or unrecognizable images,” Ouellet writes in her book. “Try to only use mirrors over sinks or in grooming areas, which often makes sense for people with dementia. Avoid mirrors that can be seen from a distance or while walking. .The image may become difficult to understand.”

Be aware that windows can reflect and cause confusion at night. After enjoying the natural light during the day, close the curtains at night.

Consider ergonomics

As dementia progresses, your mobility declines and you end up spending most of your time in your favorite chair. You can make sure that your chair is not only a comfortable favorite, but one that supports good posture.

“Ergonomics is not only about comfort, but also about maintaining organ function,” Ouellet says. “If you see yourself slouching, put a pillow under your armpits or on your back. Slouching can lead to respiratory problems. Good posture is important to keep your internal organs working. .”

Look for the following signs that your chair has a good ergonomic fit.

  • Upright posture

  • lumbar support

  • The neck is relaxed and neutral.

  • The feet are placed flat on the floor.

  • Place the armrests parallel to the floor.

The ideal chair setup will allow you to see the door, bathroom, window, and TV. Have a suitable table within reach with task lighting.

Check safety early

If structural changes are needed to the home to make it more accessible to people with limited mobility (which people with dementia are very likely to eventually face), make those changes before the need arises. It would be better to do

As Huelat writes, these areas of the home should be evaluated in terms of avoiding falls, reducing fall risk, and improving access to the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

  • Install a ramp at the entrance to the house to avoid steps.

  • Organize your home by moving furniture and clutter.

  • Replace the bathtub with a walk-in shower.

  • Add a bench and removable shower head to your shower or bathtub.

  • Install safety bars next to showers, toilets, and sinks.

  • Consider whether someone using a walker or wheelchair can easily navigate doorways and around the kitchen.

  • Choose short-pile carpets and avoid loose rugs.

  • Avoid hard stone floors.

connect with nature

Spending time in nature is good health advice for everyone, and it’s equally important for people with dementia.

“Being out in nature, especially in the morning, can reset your body clock and circadian rhythm,” Ouellet says. “Even if you’re bedridden or can’t walk very far, use a window to get a view or sit on your balcony or deck. A short walk can do wonders for you. You can.”

If you’re not mobile enough to actually go outside, or if you tend to wander, here are some tips for enjoying nature within a safe space.

  • Place houseplants indoors.

  • Use water elements such as rain chains outside nearby windows, water tanks, and indoor tabletop fountains.

  • Open the windows for fresh air.

  • Make sure that the outdoor view from your window is not obstructed.

  • Add window box plantings.

  • Place your bird feeder within sight.

  • Provide your loved one with binoculars so they can see better through the window.

  • Encourage bonding with pets and service animals.

Cherish your precious items and memories

Finally, an important part of making your home more enjoyable for people with memory loss is highlighting items that spark nostalgia or bring comfort. You can do this by hanging your children’s favorite art or pictures in areas where they spend most of their time. Keep a photo album or memory box containing items from your past within reach.

“When a person with dementia lives at home, they may not feel the need to rely on the power of items to create a sense of security and connection with others, but when a person with dementia loses mobility, When access becomes difficult, it becomes even more difficult. Some people at home are probably thinking about how this shrinking world will affect their sense of home and the safety that comes with it. ” Ouellet wrote. “If your partner no longer has access to your office, you may want to move their favorite photos and memorabilia from their upstairs office to their bedroom or living room. If you need to move their bedroom to avoid stairs? You can minimize disruption by bringing in art or other objects that are unique to the person.”

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