20 Ways to Make a Home More Dementia-Friendly

Dementia friendly home

According to the World Health Organization, “Currently more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.” (1) When your loved one develops dementia, it can be a scary experience. They can become confused and disoriented often and you may be unsure how to best help them. Your main concern as a caregiver for an elderly loved one is keeping them safe. One way to help is by using fall prevention strategies for seniors. There are many areas of the home you can modify to make their environment a safer place to be.

You can also invest in an emergency response solution for seniors with fall detection. This can give you some extra peace-of-mind that your loved one can get help whenever they need it. When the fall detection sensor within the device registers a senior fall, it will automatically contact a certified emergency response agent. This is helpful if your loved one is confused and doesn’t think to press the button on their emergency response solution for help. The emergency response agent will talk to your loved one to assess the situation and get help fast. Then they will contact whoever your loved one needs for help and stay on the line with them until help arrives.

What is Dementia and How Does It Increase Senior Fall-Risk?

Dementia is a general term for the collection of symptoms associated with impaired cognitive abilities, trouble thinking clearly, and memory loss. While some of these symptoms occur naturally with old age, they should not hinder your overall ability to perform daily tasks. When they do hinder these abilities, they are classified as Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.

The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is classified as a specific disease while dementia is not. Alzheimer’s is also a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60% to 80% of cases.” (2)

20 Ways to Make a Home More Dementia-Friendly

There are many home fall prevention interventions you can use to make a home safer for your loved one with dementia. By getting rid of hazards and other items that may trigger dementia symptoms, you can help improve their overall well-being.

1. Repair and Safeguard the Floors

Floors are an important aspect of the home you will want to pay attention to. Broken or damaged floorboards, slippery floors, and throw rugs can all be tripping hazards. If you have any broken floorboards, be sure to repair them. If you can afford it, replace slippery flooring, or get a large rug to cover slippery floors. If you have any throw rugs that move or flip over easily tape them down or get rubber mats that help them stick to the floor.

If you are concerned about your loved one because their home has throw rugs or slippery floors, a medical alert necklace can provide peace of mind and reassurance. If they fall and cannot get up, they can press the button on their emergency alert system for seniors to instantly be put in touch with someone who can help. The emergency response agent on the other end will talk to your loved one and try to keep them calm. They will assess the situation and then send the appropriate help.

2. Lighting Safety for Seniors

The ability to see clearly plays a large role in senior fall risk. If your loved one can't see obstacles in their path or the terrain under their feet, they are more likely to fall. It is important to ensure proper lighting throughout the home. Walk around their home and look for any places that are not well lit. You will also want to be certain that lights are easily accessible. Place lamps and light switches in strategic places that minimize the risk of your loved one needing to cross the room in the dark. You will also want to let natural daylight in whenever possible as this will help them maintain their circadian rhythm and get better sleep.

3. Eliminate Shine and Reflections Where Possible

Try to eliminate shine on the floor and windows as this can make it more difficult to walk or may cause your loved one with dementia to think they see things that aren’t there and cause them stress.

4. Adapt Daily Utensils & Frequently Used Items

If you notice that your loved one is having trouble using everyday utensils such as silverware, hair bushes, and toothbrushes, you may want to investigate adaptive utensils. These items can help with symptoms such as trouble gripping things and shaking. You may also find it helpful to use brightly colored utensils to help them see. Choose different colors for different utensils to help your loved one tell them apart. Make sure the colors of the utensils also contrast from tablecloths and placemats.

5. Color and Pattern Choices

According to RNIB, “Sight loss will affect 123,000 people with dementia.” (3) When choosing things like furniture, flatware, and other daily utensils, choosing items of contrasting colors can help those with dementia tell different items apart. This helps them navigate their environment more safely. However, it is best to avoid patterns as too many patterns can make telling items apart more confusing.

6. Use Labels on Drawers and Cabinets

According to Homewatch Caregivers, “As dementia progresses, your loved one will begin to lose his or her ability to identify and manipulate certain familiar objects.” (4) Label different cabinets to let your loved one know what is inside. This way they can easily find what they're looking for when they need it.

7. Install a Bulletin Board with Important Notes

If your loved one has any important daily tasks, hang up a bulletin board with notes about things they need to remember. Hang it in a place that they will see it often so that they will receive frequent reminders and have a better chance of accomplishing the important tasks.

8. Declutter and Get Organized

According to Home Watch Caregiver, “Rummaging, pillaging and hoarding are all common behavioral problems associated with dementia, and can range from strange to embarrassing to dangerous.” (5) Clutter around the home can pose as a tripping hazard and make items difficult to find when you need them. This can cause frustration for your senior loved one with dementia.

Get rid of any clutter in their house and try to set up an organizational system. Make sure items like keys, the remote control, and glasses have a specific place where your loved one can find them easily. Remove tripping hazards such as cords, loose rugs, and other random household items laying on the ground. 

If your loved one’s home is cluttered and has multiple tripping hazards, an Alert1 personal button alarm can help keep your loved one safe while you work on getting it cleaned up. If they fall, they can press the button to instantly be put into contact with an emergency response agent who can analyze the situation to get them the help they need. If your loved one is confused or anxious, they will try to calm them down and stay on the line until help arrives.

9. Install Safety Equipment

Dementia can increase the risk of falling as well as the risk of injuries. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, “Seniors with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than those without the disease.” (6) Make your home safer by installing safety equipment such as sturdy railings and grab bars.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can also help keep your loved one safe in the event of a fire or gas leak. An emergency alert system for the elderly can provide a fast way to contact someone for help if their smoke or carbon monoxide alarm goes off and your loved one needs a fast and convenient way to get help. They can press the button anytime 24/7/365 and someone will be available to assist them. They don’t need to worry about dialing a phone or hope that a friend or family member is awake and available to answer.

10. Keep a Contact List Near Phone

Create a list of important contacts and hang it near your loved one’s phone. This way, if they need to call anyone, they don't have to struggle to remember the number. If you believe that your loved one may struggle to call someone on the phone, consider getting them a mobile fall detection device  for seniors. When the fall detection sensor within the device registers a fall, it will automatically call a certified emergency response agent for help. Your loved one does not need to dial a telephone or even press a button. However, the device still does have a button in case your loved one has a non-fall related emergency they need help with.

Choosing an on-the-go wireless medical alert device also helps ensure that your loved one can get help even if they wander out of the home. The GPS tracker within the device can tell the emergency response agent assisting your loved one exactly where they are. Then the emergency response agent can send help to your loved one’s specific location.

11. Cover Mirrors

Like shiny floors and reflections in windows, if mirrors cause confusion for your loved one, cover them up or get rid of them.

12. Make Sure Electrical Outlets and Switch Plates Contrast the Wall

It is important to know where electrical outlets and switch plates are for safety purposes. Find a way to make these stand out from the rest of the walls in their home. You can get different plates, use colored tape, or create a sign/label.

13. Lock Dangerous Household Items in a Cabinet

Make sure your loved one can't access dangerous household items such as cleaning chemicals, toxic items, poisonous items, sharp items, and appliances. This way if they are confused, they are less likely to injure themselves. Lock these items away in cabinets/storage units or completely remove them from the home.

14. Add Clocks and Calendars That are Easy to Read

If your loved one becomes confused, an easy to see clock or calendar may help them re-orient themselves. This can help keep them safe as well as help them avoid stress and anxiety.

15. Display Pictures that Trigger Positive Memories

According to Homewatch Caregivers, “It is not uncommon for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and related dementias to also develop depression and anxiety.” (7) Having familiar and happy memories around their home can help calm them down and re-orient them when they are confused. Get some picture frames and fill them with pictures of positive memories. Stuffed animals, blankets, and little trinkets can also prove to be helpful comfort items.  

16. Remove Locks from Internal Doors

Remove locks from internal doors to prevent your loved one from locking themselves in a room. If you are concerned about your loved one getting stuck and confused anywhere inside or outside the home, an emergency button alarm can help give you some peace of mind. If they can’t figure out how to get out of their situation, they can press the panic button to be instantly connected with a certified emergency response agent who can help calm them down and contact whoever is needed for assistance.

17. Get an Adjustable Height Bed

If you notice your loved one having trouble getting in and out of bed, get an adjustable height bed to reduce the risk of falling. It can also be helpful to have the bed facing the bathroom. This way if they wake up confused, they can quickly find the bathroom if they need it.

18. Make Bathroom Amenities Easy to See and Reach

The bathroom can be a hazardous place for seniors, especially when they have dementia. Use bathmats to help avoid falls on slippery floors. Make sure toilet paper and towels are easy to access. Change the toilet seat to a bright color so that your loved one can see it easily.

19. Create an Outdoor Area for Your Loved One to Sit

Time outdoors can be very healing for seniors. They can get fresh air, take in some sunlight for vitamin D, boost their mood, and improve their immune system. Create a comfortable place outside for your loved one to sit and rejuvenate.

20. Invest in Gadgets that Can Help Your Loved One

If your loved one has trouble performing any daily activities, look for tools that can help them improve their daily lives. This can include special eating utensils, medication dispenser reminders, and medical alert technology.

According to Homewatch Caregivers, “Some people with dementia may need to wander around the house or by going outside. They may be trying to cope with the tension that builds up each day by physically exerting themselves or they may have Sundowner’s Syndrome, which leads to increased agitation later in the day.” (8) If this is the case with your loved one, an on-the-go emergency medical alert device with fall detection can help ensure your loved one’s safety. The built-in GPS can track your loved one no matter where they roam and the fall detection sensor can help alert an emergency response agent if your loved one is confused and doesn’t know they need to press a button for help. The emergency response agent will follow protocols and assess the situation to contact whoever your loved one needs for assistance. Best of all, they will remain on the line with your loved one until help arrives, so your loved one never has to experience a traumatic event alone.

 

 

 

 

1 World Health Organization staff. Sept. 2021. Newsroom Fact Sheets. World Health Organization. Dementia.

 2 Alzheimer’s Association staff. March. 2020. Alzheimer’s Association Report. Alzheimer’s Association. 2020 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.

3 RNIB staff. Oct. 2012 Dementia and Sight Loss. RNIB. Dementia and Sight Loss.

4 Homewatch Caregivers staff. n.d. Dementia Symptoms. Homewatch Caregivers. Impaired Object Identification and Manipulation.

4 Homewatch Caregivers staff. n.d. Dementia Symptoms. Homewatch Caregivers. Rummaging, Pillaging & Hoarding.

5 Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation staff. April. 2011. People with Alzheimers at High Risk of Falls and Injuries. Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. People with Alzheimers at High Risk of Falls and Injuries.

6 Homewatch Caregivers staff. n.d. Dementia Symptoms. Homewatch Caregivers. Anxiety & Depression.

7 Homewatch Caregivers staff. n.d. Dementia Symptoms. Homewatch Caregivers. Wandering.