Did you know that the way a home is laid out or other factors like noise level can have a big impact on someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? Creating a comfortable space that can act as a retreat can be incredibly beneficial. Being in a safe and calming environment can help minimize agitation, reduce challenging behaviors, and improve quality of life for someone living with dementia.
There are a number of factors that should be considered when creating a dementia-friendly environment at home or when looking for a memory care facility for your loved one. The right environment can do wonders in helping your loved one thrive. Read on to learn ways in which an environment can be more dementia-friendly.
1) Use great lighting
For the majority of people with dementia, and most seniors in general, failing eyesight becomes more of a reality as they age. Better lighting in the home can help avoid confusion and prevent dangerous falls. Keep all rooms well-lit with natural light as much as possible. When bulbs need to be used, make them high-wattage. Keep the windows clear from light-blocking trees or hedges and keep the curtains open to let in extra light. For those with dementia, dark shadows can be misinterpreted as something threatening. Pay close attention to the positioning of lamps to eliminate any dark pools of shadow that may cause the senior distress. Automatic light sensors can be helpful in creating light when an individual moves past them. This can be especially beneficial in a stairway or bathroom, where good lighting is essential.
2) Utilize contrasting colors
Dementia can affect someone’s ability to tell the difference between colors. You can help eliminate confusion by choosing to use contrasting colors. Walls and floors should be covered in contrasting colors, and brightly colored furniture that contrasts with the walls can help an individual quickly identify the items in the space. Using bold, contrasting colors for things like tableware and toilet seats can help define the edges of the items. If an individual has difficulty finding a room such as their bedroom or bathroom, painting the door in a contrasting color can help them find the space and keep them from accidently wandering and becoming disoriented. Even making a small change, like replacing a light switch plate with one in a contrasting color from the wall, can help eliminate confusion for someone with dementia.
3) Reduce excess noise
Having dementia can create additional stress and exhaustion for an individual. Noise, including what may be thought of as unsubstantial background noise, can cause extra stress on a person living with dementia when senses are heightened and more sensitive. A noise level that may seem acceptable to a caregiver may cause agitation and even disorientation for someone with dementia. Simply walking across a hard-surface floor may create an alarming amount of noise to a senior living with dementia, especially if they wear hearing aids. An easy preventative method to keep the hearing senses calm is to use noise-absorbing materials in the design of a living space. Carpets, curtains, cushions, and other soft furnishings can help reduce noise levels. Making sure that windows are secure and even double-glazed can help reduce loud outdoor noise as well. Keep in mind though that too much silence can also be disorientating to people with dementia. It’s best to find a balance by using soft, gentle background music or a familiar radio station with calming talk.
4) Avoid reflections
A floor or tabletop with a reflective surface can easily create glare and shadows causing unnecessary confusion for someone with dementia. A shiny floor may also appear like it’s wet, creating alarm and causing the person with dementia to avoid walking over it. Plain carpet flooring or bare hardwood is the safest choice. If rugs are needed, make sure that they are lightly-colored and well-secured to keep the senior from tripping and falling. If a tabletop or counter is too reflective, an easy solution is to use lightly-colored tablecloths or placemats. Mirrors can also cause confusion for someone living with dementia if they are unable to recognize themselves. Covering a mirror or making sure to close curtains to avoid reflection in a glass window at night can help make a space that much more comfortable.
5) Provide outdoor space
We’ve all heard how a little sunshine and fresh air can increase quality of life. This truth is no different for someone with dementia. A private outdoor space that offers security to prevent an individual from wandering off can serve as a perfect oasis. Having sheltered seating areas and raised flower beds will allow a senior opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. A flat surfaced walking path can allow for exercise and a circular, easy-to-follow path is ideal for someone with dementia.
If more help is needed than can be provided in a senior’s own home, Snyder Village offers help and care for persons living with dementia in its two memory care programs. The memory care program at Snyder Village Assisted Living is for individuals with early-to-mid stage Alzheimer’s or dementia and includes studio apartments in a comfortable and secure environment. The apartments act as a calming retreat with the added benefit of being surrounded by their peers and caring staff when needed or desired. Specialized, fun-filled activities are also part of the program, which focus on slowing cognitive decline and promoting physical activity. Residents in the Snyder Village community also enjoy a beautifully landscaped and secure outdoor space featuring a walking path, gazebo, and gardens. The Snyder Village Health Center offers a second memory care program for individuals with mid to late-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia, providing security and care in a comfortable and homey atmosphere.
By implementing some easy changes to an individual’s environment, life can be made easier for those facing dementia. It is possible to reduce frustration and stress by making certain that an individual’s living space is acting as a calming and safe haven. Don’t underestimate the difference that a colorful doorway or soft carpet can provide!
Snyder Village in Metamora is a Life Plan Community that offers independent living in its retirement cottages and apartments. Beautiful assisted living accommodations, memory care programs, skilled nursing care, and physical therapy are also available on campus. Its home care services support individuals in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and Marshall Counties. For more information, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.