There are nearly 850,000 people in the UK who are living with dementia, with this figure predicted to rise to 1 million by 2025. If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia they may need extra support to stay independent in their own home for longer.
With just a few small changes, you can make your loved one’s home life more comfortable and ‘dementia-friendly’ – here are six places to get started.
Light is exceptionally important for someone with dementia, as it helps with orientation and wellbeing. By decorating corridors and hallways with lighter colours, natural light will be better reflected and allow the space to be bright and evenly lit. You can also use light boxes in darker spaces to introduce light and avoid shadows.
Patterned wallpaper can be confusing; if you can’t replace with neutral colours, try covering it with calming artwork or photographs of fond memories from their past.
To aid familiarity, place personal belongings around the home as a distraction or talking point when your loved one is feeling confused. Reflections can complicate the mind of someone living with dementia, so avoid using mirrors to ease unnecessary distress.
Remove anything that may be a trip hazard; this can include rugs or mats (plain matt flooring is best), cables and low-level furniture. Make sure you can see the flooring clearly too.
There are lots of things you can do to help navigation around the kitchen. This includes clearly marking items in cupboards, and using clear containers to store food, which helps someone living with dementia to identify what’s inside. Serve food on brightly coloured plates or bowls, with food separated on the plate so that the different parts of the meal are clear to see. Also, consider labelling taps in the kitchen as ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ for easier, and safer use.
Put a picture or a sign on the door to label the bathroom, and consider removing the toilet lid to help make it easier to identify where the toilet is. Changing a room’s colour scheme to make it brighter can often help when needs change, as a loved one may find it harder to interpret what they see. Strong contrasts are important so that items in the bathroom stand out - including bathroom accessories, hand towels and toilet paper.
You could leave the light on at night so the toilet is easier to find. Do ensure there are no toilet or bath mats on the floor, as these can be perceived as barriers that people with dementia may try to step over.
For someone with dementia, a good night's sleep is vital, but finding their bedroom when faced with a number of doors can be challenging. Personalise the bedroom door by having an image of a bed, a favourite piece of art, or a treasured photograph.
Also, introduce plenty of light to improve orientation and wellbeing; get rid of unnecessary nets and blinds, pull the curtains back, and install higher-wattage lightbulbs and low-level nightlights. Fit heavier curtains in the bedroom to aid sleep at night-time.
Accessible technologies have provided innovative solutions to help make homes more dementia-friendly, and assistive technology can be useful in addressing specific needs, such as social interaction, memory support and health management.
These user-friendly and affordable adaptations can include special plugs that prevent flooding, gadgets that provide reminders for taking medication, and personal sensors that can detect when the wearer has fallen down. There are also movement sensors available that can alert carers and family members if doors have been left open, helping to provide added reassurance when you’re not around.
As our understanding of dementia advances, so too will the ways in which we can provide safer and more supportive environments. Simple adjustments can make big impacts, all of which will not only increase your peace of mind but also allow loved ones to stay independent in their own home for longer.
Guinness Care is a dementia-friendly organisation, and we direct our capabilities and culture towards person-centred care, treating customers with respect and involving them in decisions about their own care. Through our Housing and Dementia Project, we’ve focused on raising awareness about dementia – you can learn more about what we’ve done here.