Dementia and your home

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By ‘home’ I mean the house or apartment where you live. This can be a place that you’ve lived in for a long time, or somewhere you’ve moved to in later years, or perhaps you have moved very recently to help deal with practical problems associated with dementia.

Some of the dementia friendly ideas are about changes that you can make now and others are things you could consider if you were moving to a new or purpose-built place.

There are suggestions that are inexpensive and some that are fairly major, and you would not always do everything described here.

There are suggestions that are inexpensive and some that are fairly major, and you would not always do everything described here. For example, you would not change all the floor coverings in your house on the basis of this advice, but if you had decided to change them anyway you might consider ideas when choosing your flooring that make life easier for a person with dementia. As with most of these hints, there are two routes.

In the person’s own home change as little as possible apart from increasing the light and removing hazards. De-cluttering is good if you can get away with it, but be aware that the person may turn round and ask for the object today that they asked you to throw away yesterday. If the person is moving, make things dementia-friendly. To be dementia-friendly everything should be ‘obvious’ – that is, it should be traditional in design.

Remember that the person with dementia has difficulties with recall, working things out, learning new things and coping with disabilities or impairments, all of which is very stressful, so when you make any changes you have to keep this in mind. It is fortunate if the person can stay in a familiar place for as long as possible. After a move they may wake up in the morning, having forgotten that they’ve moved, and try to get back to the old place.

If you are staying in the old place, change as little as possible. Even if you agree to throw out the old sofa, you’ll be asked the next day where it is. The only changes you should make are those which are really required for safety and security. If you move to a new place, remember to keep everything as obvious and familiar as possible. In some cases the dementia only really comes to light after a move.

This demonstrates that an unfamiliar environment can challenge someone who is having problems with working things out, learning new things and remembering. Make the place as stress-free as possible.

There are more hints on this in Dementia: the one-stop guide: practical advice for families, professionals and people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Also, take a look at the dementia friendly home on the Dementia Services Development Centre Website. Where you will find advice for architects, interior designers and home owners.