A dementia diagnosis is life changing, but it doesn’t mean that you have to up sticks and change everything. Instead, making your loved one’s home dementia friendly will ensure that they can remain as independent as possible, helping with the everyday tasks, as even making a cup of tea can be dauting.
Here are a few tips on how to make your loved one’s home comfortable to create the highest quality of life whilst on their dementia journey.
Forgetfulness can be distressing for everyone especially for the person with dementia, so the simplest way to combat this is by putting up subtle reminders around the house to trigger fond memories. Photos of friends, family members and of familiar places such as a favourite holiday, or pet will bring a feeling of reassurance to your loved one with dementia. It’s also a great talking point, discussing the memories of their youth and their experiences throughout their life and also a chance to learn something new about their history!
Labels may seem simple, but they’re highly effective. Labelling the cupboards with the contents such as mugs, or plates will make it easier for people with dementia to get around their kitchen and carry on with business as usual. Depending on how advanced their dementia is, it may be helpful to label the stages and ingredients of making a cup of tea, for example, so no steps are missed. Around the rest of the house, even the simplest of labels are useful such as labelling different rooms. Using bright red and blue colours is helpful, for example, to indicate which is the hot and cold tap,helping to avoid confusion and potential accidents.
Don’t move everything
Naturally, you want to keep your loved ones safe and moving furniture may be a necessity, but people with dementia rely on familiarity so upheaving everything can be quite distressing. Dementia creates confusion between the long and short-term memory, so if they’ve lived in a house for 25 years, they may remember the house as it was then, rather than how it is now. As a result, moving their favourite chair in the living room, could be very disorientating. If you do have to move furniture, or move their room downstairs, be very open with your family member and keep them in the conversation so they know why this is happening. Making drastic changes without letting them know in advance may cause distress.
Day and night
The concepts of date and time can become blurred when living with dementia. Natural light is really important for people on their journey, scientific research has proven the benefits natural light has on improving mood, body rhythms and increasing vitamin D levels. Make sure that all windows are regularly cleaned, and the curtains are always open in the day. This will improve moods and subsequently, cognitive health. At night, drawing the curtains and creating a dark room will help them understand that it’s time to go to bed and ensure a regular routine.
Making a home dementia friendly can also mean making a few changes in the garden. Bringing in birdfeeders or planting flowers can bring life into the garden and as a result, a great way of keeping people engaged. Each season brings a new lease of life to a garden, whether it’s robins in the winter or bees in the summer, watching the world go by in the garden is calming and enjoyable for people on their dementia journey and for the wider family too. In the summer, put a chair outside to change the scenery for your loved one and boost their cognitive health as they can interact and feel closer with nature.
For everyone, dementia can be a difficult time but making their home as comfortable as possible will ensure that they can enjoy the things they love most while at home. Putting lots of photos around the house of past and present memories, labelling things around the house and interacting with nature together will help create more memories and moments of happiness.
John Ramsay is the CEO of Shift 8, the company bringing Tovertafel to the UK