One of the singularly most important ways in which a person can live as well as possible at home after a diagnosis of dementia is through modifying their environment. This may sound counter-intuitive given that people with dementia are known to find familiarity comforting, but environmental modifications are often actually welcomed by the person with dementia, so long as they are thought through and responsive to the person’s needs.
Environmental modifications can help the person navigate their way around more effectively to combat any disorientation and confusion the person is feeling (particularly when thinking about getting to the toilet), reduce the frustration associated with trying to find things in cupboards or rooms, and ultimately help to preserve the person’s independence for longer. By combining environmental changes and the support of an ENA live-in carer, a person with dementia is likely to feel a significant improvement in their quality of life and, crucially, avoid unnecessary hospital admissions or needing to move into a care home.
What environmental changes should be considered for a person with dementia?
- Think about the layout of the environment. Clear views of rooms and a way of navigating around the home that makes sense for the person is important – this might mean removing some doors (if possible) to create a more open-plan design.
- Add signage (using both images and words). Signage is vital for independence, particularly in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom – anywhere with multiple cupboards and drawers. Add simple instruction signs too, IE: a step-by-step guide to making tea or operating the coffee machine. Signage on bathroom/toilet doors is important for navigation and maintaining continence.
- Fixture and fittings can affect the person’s perception. Items to be wary of include reflective surfaces (windows, mirrors, glass doors and the surfaces of kitchen appliances) that may confuse or upset the person. Think about flooring: keep it plain and consistent from room to room and be mindful that mats or rugs may look like a hole to the person and could lead to falls if the person tries to step over them. Bold patterns can be problematic, so avoid things like flowery table cloths that the person may believe is actual flowers or a striped carpet that may be perceived as moving.
- Think about lighting. Maximise natural lighting, reduce glare and reflection from lights (consider what shadows may be created) and use blinds to reduce unwanted outside light at night. Install a motion sensitive night light or other low-level lighting should the person need to get up at night.
- Do a sound check. Try to minimise echoes in rooms that can distort how the person hears themselves or others, and if possible set a maximum volume for the TV or stereo to avoid loud sounds startling the person.
- Re-think colours. Paint bathroom/toilet doors or door frames a different colour to the doorways of other rooms to make them distinctive, and add a coloured toilet seat (red is a good choice) to highlight where the toilet is. Use contrasting tones or colours to make switches and objects more easily visible. For mealtimes, use plates that contrast with the meal table and the food on the plate (blue is a good choice as foods aren’t usually blue).
- Manage Risk. A walk-in shower can make washing easier. Grab rails and ramps aid mobility, maintain independence and minimise the risks of falls. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly. Consider coloured stair edging to make individual steps more obvious.
- Use technology. a specialist dementia clock can be helpful if the person is struggling to orientate themselves to the day/time. Lots of other technology also exists, from falls detectors and property exit sensors to systems that provide alerts if there is a flood or can shut-off the gas supply.
- Don’t forget outside spaces. Fitting handrails next to garden paths, well-lit seating areas, raised beds and sensory planting can help the person to maximise the use of their garden.
How our live-in carers can help to create a dementia-friendly environment
Our live-in dementia carers have had specialist training in all aspects of dementia care and can support the person and their family in making modifications to the person’s home. Our philosophy is always to fully involve the person in making environmental changes, and to do things gradually so that the person doesn’t feel overwhelmed by changes.
Once an environmental change has been made, our live-in carers work side-by-side with the person to support them in understanding the change that has been made and making sure that it works for them. We aim to ensure that the person is able to enjoy their home, feel safe, and be supported to do as much as they want to do for themselves.
Find out more about how ENA Care Group could support you or your family by calling 08004 334 413 or emailing .
Further sources of information