Home Adaptations for Dementia

Most people with Dementia wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but as a person’s Dementia progresses, they may find everyday tasks more difficult. Improving and adapting your home for your loved one can improve their standard of living and help keep home a familiar and comfortable place. When it comes to adapting the home of a person living with Dementia, the main goal should be to maintain autonomy and promote wellbeing.

General Safety As the symptoms of Dementia become more pronounced, it is important to make your household safer to prevent injuries. There are some specific adaptations that can help keep people with Dementia stay safe and give friends and family some peace of mind. Some suggestions for general safety include:

  • Disable automatic locking systems on doors so that the person does not get locked out.

  • Place stickers on glass doors to prevent confusion or bumping into the glass.

  • Store hazardous household appliances and sharp kitchen tools in locked cabinets.

  • Store medications in a locked medicine cabinet.

  • Store household cleansers, garden chemicals in a locked storage unit.

  • Remove furniture with sharp corners (or pad the corners) and ensure all furniture is sturdy and will not tip over.

  • Install a panic button and secure alarm system within the house.

Fire Safety

It is important to be aware of potential fire hazards within the home of a person with Dementia. As the disease progresses, old safety habits can be forgotten and the risk for fire-related incidents increases. You can safeguard your house against common fire hazards to greatly improve the safety of your loved one. Some ways to reduce fire risks include:

  • Install smoke detectors and inspect regularly.

  • Install radiator covers and insulate any exposed hot water pipes to prevent burns.

  • Remove auxiliary heating sources, such as space heaters and hot plates, which might present a hazard if touched

  • Remove dials on stoves and ovens to prevent your loved one from mistakenly turning it on, being burned or starting a fire.

  • If your loved one smokes, ensure there is a designated smoking area free from flammable materials such as carpets or tablecloths.

Improving Mobility People with limited mobility may often encounter difficulties moving position or going from room to room. You can assist your loved one by installing new safety features and mobility aids throughout the house. Some examples include:

  • Install handrails in hallways and stairways.

  • Install grab bars in the bathroom.

  • Install a locked gate on the stairway to prevent falls.

  • Improve areas of poor lighting conditions throughout the house.

  • Limit textures and surfaces such as shiny, glaring surfaces, which might worsen depth-perception problems and cause confusion.

  • Non-skid strips can be added to the stairs to prevent risk of slips.

  • Remove low furniture (e.g., coffee tables and stools) which could pose a tripping hazard.

  • Maintain clear paths down the centre of rooms so that your loved one can walk around unencumbered by obstacles. Maintaining the paths can also improve feelings of familiarity.

  • Remove any exposed electrical cords across walkways. Tape can be used to tape cables to the floor and remove tripping hazards.

Wandering Six in 10 people with Dementia will wander. A person with Dementia may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places. Wandering among people with Dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it:

  • Fence in your yard to reduce the chance of your loved one wandering too far. Be sure there is a lock installed on the fence. Swimming pools should be fenced in to prevent injury or drowning.

  • Install additional locks, or an alarm or buzzer on exit doors to prevent your loved one from trying to leave without your knowing.

  • Place clear and simple signs throughout the house for example signs in hallways indicating direction to the bathroom.

  • Provide your loved one with an identification or GPS bracelet in case of wandering.

  • Place an identification card in your loved one’s wallet along with a note describing his or her condition.

  • Have several photos of your loved one available on hand should he or she get lost.

  • Notify neighbours of your loved one’s condition, possible problems and caregivers’ schedules; ask them to call you if they see your loved one wandering unattended.

Improving Wellbeing

Someone living with Dementia may regularly require a lot of assistance. This can lead to feelings of distress and unhappiness. In order to improve wellbeing, it is important to reassure a loved one with Dementia that they are valued and promote independence. Reducing stresses within the house can allow your loved one to focus on the simple tasks which are meaningful to them. Some adaptations to improve wellbeing include:

  • Post a calendar on an obvious wall, and cross off each day that passes.

  • Make a list of visitors and the time they are arriving. The list should be clearly legible and placed in an area where it will be seen often.

  • Clocks should be placed in multiple rooms to help your loved one orient him or herself easily and frequently to the time of day. Clocks with large hands and numbers are favourable.

  • Maintain furniture arrangements in all rooms to promote feelings of familiarity.

  • Keep your loved one’s belongings in the same place all the time to provide as much consistency as possible.

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