Adapting Your Home to be Dementia Friendly 

By: Gayle Bertsch | February 9, 2021

Dementia manifests itself in many different ways.  Changes to the sensory perceptions of a dementia sufferer can create confusion, fear and anxiety.  There are a number of easy and relatively inexpensive changes to the home that can not only be calming, but also create an environment allowing the dementia sufferer to function effectively.  Here are some ideas that can help create that environment:

An open design plan can help people remain oriented in their home.  Removing, or partially removing, walls between living areas can provide reassuring visual cues. Creating lines of sight which lead people naturally to the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen can help people continue to function effectively in the home.  Contrasting paint colors in soothing, neutral shades of taupe and greens help as well when used to define rooms and hallways, creating a natural visual flow from one area of the home to another.  Keeping the color of the walls different from the floors, and providing yet another neutral contrasting color of trim for the baseboards, doors and windows trims provides additional visual cuing.

Dark surfaces on the floor may appear to be holes or depressions to the person with dementia.  Changing the carpets to a solid light color removes that visual barrier.  It is especially important to either remove dark door mats, or exchange them for lighter colors, to avoid the appearance of a void at entrances and exits.

Windows allowing natural light into the home can lessen the effects of sun downing, as well as help dementia sufferers maintain their daily rhythm of days and nights.  Windows can be thermostatically controlled to open automatically as the day warms, and close as it cools.

Electrical outlets, rather than being hidden low to the floor boards, should be elevated to chest height, making them easier to find and access.  Color coding hot and cold faucets throughout the home lessen the risk of confusing the two and prevent possible injury.

Photographs of loved ones through the home can stimulate memories and bring smiles, as can other touchstones from peoples’ lives.

Changes in visual perceptions, as well as hallucinations in some dementia patients, can result in anxiety and frustration.  Simplifying the home and making some minor changes can create a calming environment and help the patient continue to navigate successfully through their daily lives.

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