Making Your Home A Safe Place For Your Loved One With Dementia
Our experts here have shared some tips to help you set up your home in a way that will make life easier and comfortable for your loved one with dementia.
If you are a dementia caregiver, it is important for you to adjust your home in a way that makes life comfortable for your loved one. People with dementia often have difficulty in understanding their surroundings and find it tough to walk around or even do regular tasks. Having a home set-up that is safe and convenient for those with dementia can make your life somewhat easier. Here are suggestions from experts.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE HOME ADJUSTMENTS?
Neha Sinha, Chief Executive Officer of Epoch Elder Care, an assisted living home for seniors with dementia in Gurgaon and Pune, says: “Our environment decides a great deal about how we feel in our everyday life. Similarly, the environment can have a huge impact on a person with dementia symptoms like orientation, confusion, comprehension and decision making.”
Sinha believes that a well-adjusted home can reduce confusion, help people with dementia process information clearly, aid in comprehension and helps the person stay more oriented and less anxious. “A home is one’s safety net and comfort zone and it is super important that the place where we spend our maximum time takes care of these feelings,” adds Sinha.
A dementia-friendly home can also be a relief for a caregiver and reduces stress. Sinha explains how: “By reducing confusion and anxiety, the loved one with dementia is more receptive to receiving care and assistance in their daily activities. A dementia-friendly home is more of a necessity and safety measure, than a choice. Symptoms of dementia can be very unpredictable and even a single second can change things. It is not always possible to be present with the person 24X7, hence it is even more critical to ensure that the environment is safe for them and the caregiver is stress-free.”
Here are a few simple but effective tweaks that can make life much simpler for a dementia caregiver.
De-clutter the house and surroundings
Get rid of the unnecessary things that add to disorientation. Remove extra bottles, toiletries, decorations from the washrooms, living rooms and bedrooms which may not be used on a day to day basis. To make it easier for the person to shower, just keep a soap and shampoo bottle in the bathing area and nothing else. Clean up their bedside table and keep important things like glasses, water bottle and the accessories regularly used well within their reach.
Label if they can read
People with dementia may face difficulty in identifying where to keep what and where to get their necessary belongings from. If your loved one with dementia can read easily, process the information and comprehend it properly, labelling their rooms and personal spaces can help them a great deal. Like, if you label their closet and let them know where they can get their things from, it becomes easier for them. However, do this only if they do not face any difficulty in reading. Otherwise, it may lead to another source of confusion.
Remove any harmful objects lying around
Removing harmful objects or those that pose a safety risk can actually prevent undesirable mishaps and accidents. Any electric appliances, sharp objects, non-edible liquids, naked wires or loose wiring should be gotten rid of to reduce safety risk as much as possible at home.
Put grills on the windows and balconies
This is another must-do, especially if the apartment is in a high rise. Ensure there are grills on the windows and balconies. A person with dementia may experience an increase in anxiety or paranoid feelings quite commonly. If at any point they perceive a threat to their safety, they may risk escaping the room or house. Uncovered windows and unguarded balconies can become a threat in that case.
Take measures to reduce fall risk
Reduce fall risk by removing loose wires, rugs, carpets, furniture or just children’s toys lying around. Dementia also changes depth perception in a person, so a person may not be able to fully make sense of a glass table or a foot mat which might seem like an added layer on the floor. Chairs with armrests must also be considered, as loss of balance is also commonly experienced as dementia progresses.
Avoid fancy packaged stuff
Soaps shaped like fruits or bottles shaped like a book and fancy decorative objects should be avoided at homes with a loved one having dementia. The key is to simplify. It is not uncommon to see someone with dementia get confused between a remote and a phone or calculator. Thus, it is always helpful to only keep things that look like what they are supposed to be.
Keep your doors locked to prevent wandering
Wandering (click here to know about Wandering in Dementia and some safeguards) is a very common symptom of dementia. Keep the main doors locked to prevent wandering. However, it is also important to ensure that if they are trying to get out and encounter a locked door, a reasonable explanation is given on why the door is locked instead of making them feel ‘locked up’ in the house.
Adequate lighting is a must
Avoid lighting which creates multiple shadows and can add to paranoia or hallucinations. Put up bright lights so that they are able to see things clear and move about without any obstructions due to low visibility.
Dr Naganath Narasimhan Prem, Consultant Geriatrician and Elderly Care Specialist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Center, Mumbai, shares some additional home-safety tips.
• Be prepared for emergencies. Make sure safety devices are in working order.
• Add extra lights to entries, doorways, stairways, areas between rooms and bathrooms. Use night lights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms to prevent accidents and reduce disorientation.
• Place medications in a locked drawer or cabinet. To help ensure that medications are taken safely, use a pillbox organizer or keep a daily list and check off each medication as it is taken.
• Remove tripping hazards. Keep floors and other surfaces clutter-free. Remove objects such as magazine racks, coffee tables and floor lamps.
• Watch the temperature of water and food. It may be difficult for a person with dementia to tell the difference between hot and cold.
• Avoid injury in the bathroom. Install walk-in showers. Add grab bars to the shower or tub and at the edge of the vanity to allow for independent, safe movement. Add textured stickers to slippery surfaces. Apply adhesives to keep throw rugs and carpeting in place or remove rugs completely.
• Improve laundry room safety. Secure and lock all cleaning products such as detergent, liquid laundry. Prevent access to the washer and dryer
• Support the person’s needs. Try not to create a home that feels too restrictive. The home should encourage independence and social interaction, hence, clear areas for his or her activities.
Adoption of technology (click here to know how gadgets can help dementia caregivers) can help in preparing your home to be safe and convenient for one with dementia, improve quality of life and provide assistance in several ways. Sensors can be used to prevent falls, motion detectors can provide alerts on movements, especially during the night. Assistive technologies for pill reminders or automatic pill dispensers, smart technology with a timer that helps in automatic switching off for appliances, stoves, lights, wireless devices to measure heart rates and respiration, talking clocks and calenders, padlocks for locking the main entrances, in-home cameras for monitoring and locator devices and GPS can ensure the safety and comfort of those with dementia to a great extent.
September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day and observing the month of September as the Dementia month, Silver Talkies is covering various aspects of Dementia to make the readers aware of the condition. Click here for other related stories.