If you or someone you love has dementia, you might be wondering how you can make life easier for those suffering from the disease.
Research conducted by the NHS has shown that there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and this number is actually increasing year-on-year as people live longer. Symptoms that you need to be aware of are things like loss of memory and coordination, as well as mood swings and sensitivity to external stimuli such as light and sound.
Many people with Alzheimer's choose to live at home, with a PA or with their family, but creating a dementia-friendly home can be confusing. There are so many things to consider that you might be wondering where to start with making your space more comfortable for a loved one with this condition.
But there are some very simple things that you can do to make your home more accessible, and by breaking them down, it becomes much easier to begin. Here's how to make your home dementia-friendly.
- Maximise natural lighting
Having lots of natural light in their house will not only make it more pleasant to live in, but it will also make it much easier for those suffering from dementia symptoms to see where they are going, making falls and injuries less likely. As dementia affects how quickly we react to situations, this can be a big help in making their house more accessible. Being able to see better also means dementia sufferers can identify signs, people, and facial expressions — the very thing that will make them more comfortable in their home.
Natural light also brings other benefits. An article by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) also says that natural light is helpful for dementia because it promotes vitamin D production, which can aid the regulation of emotions and therefore help to level out mood swings.
2. Minimise noise
Noise can be a real problem for those with dementia, as the disease makes them more sensitive to sound, and so it's easy for over-stimulation to become an issue. Another article by the SCIE explains that this is not only because dementia can alter how a person experiences both noise and light, it's also because hearing is linked to balance. This means that changes in hearing can affect people's movement, as well as being overwhelming for those experiencing it.
Many noises can't be hugely mitigated, for instance bathrooms always have particularly echoey acoustics. However, where possible, install more soft furnishings, carpets, and fabrics like rugs to absorb sound and make it easier for your loved one, for whom noise might be too much.
It can also be useful to avoid playing music and trying to talk to a dementia sufferer at the same time, as it will be difficult for them to concentrate on both sources of stimuli. A more intensive solution is to soundproof certain rooms, such as the room your loved one sleeps in. But if this isn't possible, reducing noise and being mindful of when you play music or have the TV on can go a long way.
3. Specialist furniture
Adding the right furniture can be a great way of making spaces more accessible for those with various conditions, and dementia patients can benefit massively from having comfortable and suitable pieces in their homes. Always use chairs with backs and arms to ensure that your loved one is supported when they sit down. These features will also aid them when they go to get back up again, helping them mitigate the ways that the condition affects their balance and movement.
Chairs that have tilt and reclining properties are also ideal, as this allows people to adjust the furniture to their desired level, and they can assist with standing or sitting. Many also have remote controls, with which the user can control the chair, offering a dementia patient more control over their environment, ensuring they have more freedom to move and more independence.
4. Avoid reflections
Make sure that you take out or minimise the mirrors throughout the house. People suffering with dementia often find it emotionally difficult and confusing to see their own reflection, so it's much easier to minimise the reflections they encounter to avoid distress. Bathrooms, bedrooms, and the living room should all be free from mirrors, so that this is never a worry.
This will make it easier for your loved one to concentrate on their surrounding environment, without being distracted by their reflection. You can also draw the curtains at windows when it gets dark, as your windows can produce reflections that are almost like looking in a mirror.
If your loved one is suffering from dementia, it can feel overwhelming to rearrange your space so that it will suit their needs. But, by starting with these tips, you can create a home that is comfortable for them, helps them navigate the house, and allows them to gain more day-to-day independence.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these insights on how to create a dementia-friendly home from Alison Hughes at Coast Road Furniture.