Living With Dementia: Home And Workplace Adaptations
12 March 2021
Many people with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s continue to live at home with the right support.
Dementia is a condition which covers a variety of neurological disorders which affect each person differently. As the condition progresses, a person’s memory, thinking and behaviour can change. You may wonder if you need to adapt your home so it remains a safe and familiar environment. And, what equipment will improve your home to help you with everyday tasks.
When considering how to care for a person with dementia, it’s important to include them in decisions about their home. Make any changes early on and with their permission so they have time to adapt. Preferences about style, colour and furniture can empower individuals - helping them adjust to any changes.
Initially, you may only need to make simple modifications. Let’s explore what alterations, aids and equipment can help make life easier at home for people with dementia.
Making Changes To A House for Dementia
You may have visions of clunky adapted cutlery, or ugly mobility aids. Dementia adaptations are thankfully, not like that. Many companies make modern equipment which can help you manage dementia symptoms effectively and stylishly. Equipment for dementia needn't be expensive. Often small changes, through things like memory aids, or changing the layout of a room, can make a positive impact.
• Gradually adapt your home to better live with dementia
• Maintain a familiar, welcoming and safe environment
• Consult an Occupational Therapist or GP for advice on which aids and equipment will best assist you
• Investigate which equipment is funded through Social Services, Adult Services or the NHS
Clutter. Harmless items that can become trip hazards in the home. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s affects visual-spatial abilities, causing problems with coordination and balance. By removing obstacles and considering flooring and furniture choices, you can avoid common falls. Support a loved one with dementia at home by following these tips:
• Check there are no loose corners to carpets and rugs
• Replace uneven or damaged flooring
• Illuminate darker parts of the house with lamps, LED lights, or plug in night-lights
• Consider a security light for the garden and entrance
• Store ornaments and decorations out of reach
• Avoid waxing or polishing floors
A familiar, homely environment helps people with dementia who experience symptoms of confusion and lapses in memory. Modify the living room so that it is safe, functional but filled with tokens of their life. Research shows that physical objects, such as photos, can improve cognition in those with later-stage dementia. Objects spark memories and offer opportunities to talk.
• Remove trip hazards such as lose rugs, side tables in walkways
• Keep a simple furniture arrangement
• Highlight photos of friends, family, spouses and loved ones
• Hang curtains and blinds to help transitioning from day to night, and for noise reduction
• Add a radio/ smart-speaker as an alternative to television
• Install a clock with the day, date and time visible
• Declutter papers and keep reading glasses and TV remotes in a consistent place
• Use contrasting colours for window sills, door handles and light switches
• Replace patterned rugs and carpets with contrasting plain colours
Early stage dementia can be easily managed with a few kitchen adaptations. Colour coded labels on foods, drawers and utensils can act as a simple visual prompt. As the symptoms progress, it may not be safe for a person with late-stage dementia to use the kitchen. Here, a carer can take on the duty of washing up, providing hot drinks, snacks and home cooked meals.
• Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms regularly
• Label draws, cupboards, utensils, food packaging clearly
• Install a gas detector to notify if the hob and oven is left on
• Consider installing an induction hob which will automatically turn off, and doesn’t generate heat to the touch
• Minimise clutter through effective storage
• Keep cleaning products separate, or in a locked cupboard
• Use adapted kettles and toasters which reduce the risk of burns
• Include safe, comfortable seating to involve people with dementia in the social experience of meal preparation
Hallways and Staircases
Navigating stairs can be difficult if dementia has affected a person’s mobility. Patterns can cause confusion with distance and depth perception - so be mindful of carpet choices. Some people relocate their bedroom to the ground floor for security and ease.
• Check railings are secure and extend the length of the stairs
• Increase lighting by using plug in night lights on landings and halls
• Replace patterned carpets with plain
• Install a fall alert device at the base of the stairs
• Consider moving the bedroom to the ground floor
• Mark each step’s edge to show the depth - this will help a person with dementia judge distance more easily.
Bedroom adaptations for dementia
A person’s bedroom should be safe, functional and a calming environment. People with dementia can get anxious or confused during the evening and night. It may be necessary to have overnight care in addition to the following changes:
• Install a motion-censored night light near the bed and on the landing
• Lay clothes out in the order a person puts them on
• Remove wardrobe clutter and consider extra lighting
• Make the bed stand out with different/bright coloured sheets
• Install sensors that tell you when someone has gotten out of bed/ returned to bed, to alert a carer during the night
People with dementia may need assistance from a carer with toileting, bathing, dressing and brushing teeth. The following changes can help people with dementia when using a bathroom:
• Install a flood prevention plug, some of these also change colour if the water gets too hot
• Use colour contrast on surfaces, like a towel on the bath edge, or different coloured toilet seat
• Store medicines safely and dispose of old ones regularly
• Use non-slip mats next to the sink and in the bath/ shower
• Lower the water temperature on the boiler
• Include ‘grab’ bars by the bath and toilet
Some bathroom alterations for dementia can be more costly - but useful for everyone in the home.
• Walk-in showers/ wet room with a bath seat
• Replace mixer taps with separate hot and cold ones to avoid scolds
• Install an accessible, emergency pull cord system like Lifeline
Get Help With Dementia Care
In the UK there are many dementia specialist charities. You can find more information about Alzheimers and dementia, speak with people who can empathise and support, and discover local services available to you:
• The Dementia UK helpline – 0800 888 6678
• The Carers Trust for support for carers
Curam - a better dementia care community
Many people with dementia and Alzheimer’s can live comfortably in their own home, if they have the right support. As the condition progresses, a dementia specialist home carer can help with domestic, medical and daily-living tasks. Or to support spouses and family members, a home carer can provide respite care or even live-in care. To find out more contact us or download the Curam App.
How to support people with dementia at work
Whilst dementia is typically thought about as an illness that mostly affects older, retired people, it is still a relevant issue in the context of the workplace. More and more people are retiring at a later age; therefore, they can start to experience symptoms of dementia whilst at work.
It is possible to support people with dementia in the workplace by adapting a physical office and the culture and attitudes of the people who work there. Here are some of the adaptations that can help people with dementia:
• New lighting
• Installing carpets that help with noise reduction
• Signs and décor that make the space easier to navigate
• Creating a supportive and open working culture so that people feel ready to talk about dementia
• Promoting healthy lifestyles at work so that people can aim to prevent dementia with activities such as exercise, drinking less alcohol and eating a balanced diet.
• Being a ‘carer friendly’ workplace by being more flexible and supportive
• Providing information about carers at work
• Use clear internal communications
• Offering good HR practice to every member of staff to discover any difficulties people are experiencing
Support for people with Dementia, their families, colleagues and carers
You may know a colleague, friend or relative who has dementia. Here at Curam we want to support you as best as we can by allowing you to choose the right carer and care type for you or your loved one. Feel free to get in touch to find out more.