Moving around the home can present many challenges when someone has dementia, and it’s important to reduce the risk of injury or falls. However, there are lots of things you can do to adapt the home and make it more “dementia-friendly”. This brief guide looks at the changes you can make, equipment you can buy, and where to get further information.
Changes you can make
Some of the most important things you can do to improve the home are:
- Make sure that each room is well-lit, with plenty of natural light or adequate light fixtures. The exception is the bedroom – it’s important to be able to block out street light at night-time. For other rooms, you can buy “day light lamps” which offer a whiter, brighter light mimicking daylight.
- Consider buying a dementia clock. This is a simplified version of a clock that tells you whether it is “morning”, “afternoon” or “night”. Some clocks can also be configured with reminders to tell you when to have lunch or dinner.
- You might benefit from making use of a whiteboard or noticeboard to keep reminders in one place. This might be used to remind the person you care for of their medication routine or meal plan for the week.
- If the person you care for wants to be able to make regular calls, they might benefit from a phone with large numbers. Another option is to buy a phone which programmes each button to a different person. You can then print out a picture of person – whether it’s a relative or friend – and stick it on the button. That way, the person you care for only has to click on the face of the person they want to call.
- Make sure that the bathroom – especially the toilet – are easy to find. It can help to leave the bathroom door open when not in use and leave the bathroom light on. It can also help to make the toilet seat a contrasting colour.
- If you are worried about the person you care for leaving the bath running then forgetting about it, you can purchase flood prevention plugs for around £10. These will automatically open the plug when the water level gets too high.
- Reduce the amount of clutter around the house – this can be confusing or disorientating for someone with dementia. In particular, tape any loose cords or wires and move them out of the way to reduce the risk of falls. Mirrors and some artwork can also be confusing.
- Make sure that there is a strong contrast between your walls and doors with any light switches, door handles and cupboard handles. This will make them much easier to find.
- Consider labelling the different cupboards and drawers of your house so that it is easy to find things.
- Tape down or remove any loose rugs – and repair damaged flooring, to reduce the risk of slipping. Avoid dark rugs, as they can be mistaken for puddles of water or holes.
Equipment and adaptions
Grab rails can be installed anywhere in the house and provide extra stability when moving around. They can be particularly useful in the bathroom or along the stairs. To have grab rails fitted in your house it’s important to see an occupational therapist, who will be able to determine what type of grab rail is best for your situation and exactly where it should be installed.
Equipment for the kitchen
Rather than chopping up ingredients with a knife, consider purchasing a food processor to make the job easier and safer. There are now a wide variety of food processors available, many adapted for use if you struggle with using your hands.
When it comes to eating food, adapted cutlery may be easier to grip, and anti-slip mats can help with stability.
For extra safety, you might want to consider buying socket covers, or reducing the temperature of your hot waster.
Equipment for the stars
As well as fitting a grab rail, you can buy special edging which provides a better grip when walking up and down the stairs. If you or the person you care for struggles to see the end of the stairs, “Steps 3-2-1” labels can indicate when you’ve reached the landing.
Telecare and monitoring systems
You or the person you care for might feel more secure in the knowledge that if an emergency in the home were to happen such as a fall, support services are notified immediately. There are an increasing range of telecare and activity monitoring systems now on the market. Some provide an alarm to the person with dementia to ring if they have a fall, while others detect a fall automatically. These are often paid for on a monthly subscription basis.
Age UK – Making Your Home Dementia Friendly
Age UK – Home Safety Checker
Alzheimer’s LA – Keeping the Home Safe
Other housing options
If the person you care for has complex needs and requires round-the-clock support with personal care, you may want to consider other housing options. The decision to move house is a difficult one and there are many things to think about. Here are some guides on the subject:
Age UK – Housing options
NHS – Dementia and Care Homes