How to Create a Dementia-Friendly Environment at Home
Simple changes at home make life easier for people with dementia.
Everyday life can be challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. But simple adaptations can make home life easier and more pleasant.
As their dementia progresses, your older adult will have more trouble remembering, thinking, processing, and reasoning.
Making everyday tasks easier helps them stay as independent as possible and reduces frustration, stress, and anxiety.
To create a dementia-friendly environment at home, we rounded up 5 simple changes you can make overall and 8 updates specifically for the bathroom and kitchen.
5 tips to make the home dementia-friendly
1. Remove clutter so frequently-used items are easy to see
When there’s a lot of clutter around, it can be difficult for someone with dementia to see the items they need at the moment.
Clearing away unnecessary items and putting a focus on the things your older adult uses most helps them easily get what they need.
2. Use contrasting colors, but keep patterns minimal
Contrasting colors help people with dementia easily see useful objects – like a red plate on a white placemat or painting the bathroom door a different color.
But using too many patterns in decor can have the opposite effect. That can create visual confusion and make things harder to see. Too many or clashing patterns can also cause agitation from too much visual stimulation.
3. Leave doors open and/or add simple signs
Because someone with dementia may not remember where rooms are in their home, it’s important to leave the interior doors open. When the inside of rooms are visible, it’s easier to navigate the house.
If your older adult is frequently getting lost, consider putting up simple one-word signs (FOOD or KITCHEN) or pictures (a toilet or a bed) with an arrow pointing the way to those essential rooms.
Of course, if there are rooms they shouldn’t go into, make sure to keep those doors closed and avoid calling attention to those areas.
4. Add orienting items like an easy-to-understand clock and calendar
Feeling oriented to time and day can support cognitive function.
In the room where they spend the most time and/or on their bedside table, consider adding an easy-to-read clock (like this one) that clearly states the time, time of day (morning, evening, etc.), day, and date.
Having all this information in one easy-to-see place makes a big difference in .
They may also benefit from a large print calendar to keep track of days and important events.
5. Add photos or keepsakes that evoke positive memories
Placing photos and mementos that bring up positive memories around the house encourages reminiscing and creates a pleasant environment.
4 tips for a dementia-friendly bathroom
With so many shiny surfaces in a small space and a variety of tasks to complete, the bathroom can be a challenge to navigate.
1. Contrasting toilet seat
Consider adding a contrasting toilet seat cover to draw attention it. White toilets often blend in with the floor and walls and aren’t as noticeable.
The idea is to help the toilet stand out and be easily found. For example, toilet seats can come in red, light blue, or yellow.
2. Raised toilet seat
To make it easier to sit and stand independently, your older adult may also benefit from a raised toilet seat, with or without arms.
3. Toilet target aids
For some older men with dementia (and/or low vision), it can be tough to keep the toilet area tidy when peeing. Missing the bowl also means a lot more clean up for caregivers.
Adding a highly visible target inside the bowl helps them clearly see where they should be aiming. You could draw a picture on a piece of toilet paper or throw a goldfish cracker or a couple of pieces of brightly colored cereal into the bowl.
Or, try these: Berryzilla Hit the Spot Decal, Toilet Sniper Self-Adhesive Targets, flushable Mom Invented Tinkle Targets.
4. Label faucets with hot and cold
It’s also helpful to clearly label the hot and cold water taps, whether they’re separate taps or a mixer that moves side to side.
4 tips for a dementia-friendly kitchen
1. Make often used items easy to find
In a typical kitchen, most things are hidden behind cabinet doors and inside drawers.
That often explains why people with dementia will open and close many kitchen cabinets and drawers. They can’t remember where things are kept.
Keep kitchen surfaces as clutter free as possible and put the larger items that your older adult uses most front and center.
To help them easily find smaller items like utensils or cups, place a sign or a photo of those items on the outside of the cabinet door or drawer. Or, you could take the doors off the cabinets or switch to glass doors.
2. Hide items you don’t want them to find
In other cases, someone with dementia will become overly focused on something accessed in the kitchen, like constantly feeding a pet.
Telling them that the pet has already been fed or that they shouldn’t overfeed the pet simply won’t work.
What you can do is lock away or hide these items – “out of sight, out of mind” often works with people with dementia.
3. Adapt frequently-used items
Age, health conditions like arthritis, stroke, or dementia can make it difficult to grip and use common items like utensils or cups.
If you notice your older adult struggling with these items, consider getting adaptive utensils, dishware, and drinkware or simple foam tubing to expand grips.
4. Make mealtime easier and more pleasant
Eating can become a challenge for someone with dementia and that can dampen their appetite and willingness to eat.
But there are a number of simple things that can be done to make mealtime easier and more pleasant for them – which will hopefully improve their appetite.
For example, limit distractions like noise or TV, use plates that make food highly visible, and be flexible to adapt to their food preferences.