Q: My husband has dementia, and I am finding it challenging at home. How can I arrange my home to help him function better?
A: There is a lot of information on how to create a home environment that is more friendly and comfortable for people with dementia. It is wonderful that you are asking about this and wanting to make changes to ensure the environment will provide your husband the least stress as possible.
By modifying the environment at home, you can work towards promoting your husband’s independence with a focus on safety. When someone has dementia, they have changes and damage to their brain. While this may be slightly different in each person, it generally will affect how they experience the world around them.
They may have misperceptions and misidentify things. Their depth perception will be reduced, and their peripheral vision narrowed. It is important to think about these changes when looking at your home set up.
If you have stairs, you may need to place a brightly colored strip of duct tape across the start of the stairs to help them stand out and signify there is a change in the environment. Reduce floor clutter and ensure pathways are clear with ample room. Set up extra lighting in the path to the restroom, especially at night.
If your loved one has trouble remembering which door leads to the bathroom, you may consider putting a sign with a picture of a toilet on the door. While this may not be the aesthetic you would normally choose for your home, it can make a world of difference and ensure your husband can find his way. You can also label cabinets and closets to make it easier for him to find the items he needs.
Think about any safety issues in your home. This includes fall prevention, as well as any weapons or tools in the home. Your husband may seek to use such items. However, due to his dementia he may not be able to use them in a safe way. Ensure medications are monitored or secured as well.
Be aware that many people with dementia may leave the home and then get lost and are unable to get back. Ensure your loved one has a medic-alert type device or cell phone that can be tracked on him. Consider putting a bell on the front door or adding a front door camera with motion detector to alert you if he opens it.
Hannah Hoffman, Senior Concerns’ Care Manager, and I are co-presenting a virtual seminar with Senior Concerns called “How to Create a Dementia Friendly Home.” The seminar will be held via Zoom from 3:00-4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 27, 2022. Register for the seminar here https://www.seniorconcerns.org/seminars/
We will address all these issues in the seminar and go into more depth about ways to modify your home environment. This includes small things you might not think about, such as the kitchen plates and utensils you use. People with changes in their brain may find it difficult to see food if it is the same color as the plate, or if the plate blends in with the table. Simple changes and the use of contrasting and simple colors can make a difference in the person’s ability to see them.
Anything you can do to make it easier for your loved to engage in the environment, to find their way, and to find the items they need, will not only increase their sense of self but will reduce your need to interfere and provide assistance. Ultimately this will reduce the stress in your home and help you and your husband have a better quality of life.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at email@example.com.