Caring for a dementia patient can take a toll on anybody. The disease basically impairs a person’s cognitive abilities enough to affect their normal daily life. Some of the usual signs include trouble remembering appointments, paying bills, making meals, and travelling out of the home for no reason. If your loved one is battling the condition, they need an organized and clean space to live in.
What are the leading tips of organizing a home for dementia? First of all, you need to make the space clutter-free. Once that is done, get a place for everything, keep things within reach, use color and contrast, maximize on lighting, keep things simple, remove unsafe items, use equipment to ensure safety, create a routine, and provide and emergency contact list.
Read on as I take a deeper look at the tips for making your home dementia-friendly.
- Manage the clutter
As usual, my organization projects always start from de-cluttering. The stakes are even higher if you are organizing your home for a person with dementia. See, clutter stimulates the brain of even the healthiest of people. Now imagine an individual suffering from brain changes affected by Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
When the brain is stimulated, a person with the deadly condition tends to have a hard time processing information. Eventually, they will not find it difficult to find things they need, stay focused on one thing, or remember the sequence of daily mundane tasks.
For instance, when they walk into a room full of unfolded laundry, a sink full of dishes or overflowing receipts, they can easily get confused. What always happens in the end is that they will not know exactly what needs to be accorded more attention and what can wait.
Your best bet? Try your level best to keep only what you need. Go through your entire house and purge everything. If something isn’t worth sitting in any living space, throw it or give it away.
2. A place for everything
The number two secret of organizing a home for dementia is to designate a place for virtually everything in the house. With an impaired brain function, a person living with the sickness experiences difficulty remembering where everything is. This can be something as easy as tea bags, shower soap, and sugar.
If, for example, they don’t know where the coffee mugs are located, they might take forever to make a cup of coffee in the morning. However, if everything is kept in a sure place round the clock, it can be easy to make that cup of coffee.
When creating a place for everything, here are a few pointers to help you.
- Group similar things together: to motivate a mentally sick person to take action, put similar stuff in one area. For instance, place all the spices, cooking oil, and other cooking essentials in one cupboard or close to each other. Have the teabags, coffee, and sugar next to the kettle. This way, the individual doesn’t work so hard to remember where the necessary stuff is located.
- Label them up: after placing your items where they should be, the next thing is to label them up. This doesn’t only help the loved one with dementia, it is a proven organization strategy for healthy individuals as well. Bring in your labels and place them everywhere including the kitchen cupboards, doors, fridge, the closet, and bathroom essentials. Where possible, use colorful photo images, post-it notes, and cards to the labels.
3. Keep things within reach
Under normal circumstances, it is perfectly fine to throw some items in hard-to-reach areas. These include the space between the cabinets and the ceiling, bottom kitchen closets, and so on. However, when we are talking about making your home dementia-friendly, re-think that strategy.
You want to ensure that this individual can reach for items with relative ease. If they are tucked away, they might have trouble remembering where the stuff is and may end up not taking action at all. Keep TV remotes, favorite outfits, towels, toilet paper, cooking essentials, and all that stuff within reach at all times.
4. Maximize on lighting
This doesn’t fall in the category of organization but is a very important facet for organizing a home for dementia. Both dementia and aging can affect eyesight in more ways than one. To help a person with the condition, you want to make use of natural lighting as much as you can.
This is not the time to keep the curtains closed all day. Open them up as soon as the sun peeps in the sky and close them up only when it sets down. When it does, switch to artificial lighting. If possible, utilize wall-mounted lights or table lights over overhead lights as the latter can make the person think that they are in an institution.
5. Utilize color and contrast throughout the entire house
In addition to lighting, you want to take advantage of color and contrast to help the mind of dementia patient process information fast and easy. As it turns out, these two things have been known to help humans see stuff better. An example is using a black dinner over a white placemat.
Doing this helps the sick person to clearly see their food and eat. Also, rather than using white switch plates against a wall, you might want to make them colored for the same reason. If using a white basin, add colorful stickers to help the person see it clearly. This is applicable to the choice of furniture to be used. Use bright colors that contrast to help the individual see the furniture better.
6. Remove unsafe equipment
This is a no-brainer when organizing a home in general. It is especially true if you have young kids and a mentally-sick patient at home. While you are at it, pay more attention to your flooring. Ensure any slip hazards including wires and cables are removed. If you have rugs, tape them down and get rid of them altogether. The latter option is better than the first both for health (rugs bear disease-causing organisms) and physical reasons (they might cause accidents).
Keep all the floors clutter-free and clean as much as you can. This also goes for other areas in the house. Check your closets, cabinets, and living room for unsafe equipment including pocket knives, surgical blades, house hold cleaners, etc. and get rid of them
7. Keep things simple
Less is more when it comes to keeping a house dementia-friendly. If you love patterns and want your house to have them, you might want to think twice before using them in your home. The truth is that a person living with dementia needs all they can to help their brain make sense of everything. Unfortunately, too many patters have the same effect as clutter- brain stimulation. You want to avoid that at all cost.
Use one color on the floors and avoid using stripes there. Keep all the furniture patterns as simple as can be. One of the things to really watch out for is a shiny floor as it can make the individual think that it is wet. Consider getting rid of the toilet seat if your loved one has trouble identifying it. If there are any items that are not used regularly, consider keeping them away.
8. Use equipment to ensure safety
A good example is using carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms around the home to give a warning of danger. Use sensors too to warn you or the person if the temperature of the house is too high or too low or if the water is left running. In addition, utilize rails the person can grab when walking and which can keep them from falling.
9. Create a routine
We all need routines to help us remember to do daily tasks, stick to our goals, and improve our quality of life. A person living with dementia needs it even more as they don’t remember a lot of stuff. Creating a routine that details their reminders and activities will help you and them greatly.
Make sure it shows clearly what the individual needs to do as soon as they wake up in the morning to the time they rest in the evening. Add the most basic details like when they need to call a friend, what to watch on TV, what time dinner will be, and afternoon activities. Make the routine as simple and repetitive as can be. Throwing in different stuff everyday might the person into confusion
10. Keep emergency contacts visible and accessible
Lastly, ensure that there is a clear contacts list the person can use in case of an emergency. Gather all the phone numbers add photos next to each one and print it out, Again, use contrasting colors for better visibility. Stick this list in a few different locations in the house.
The challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia are vast. Fortunately, you can lessen the load by organizing your house just right. You may not be able to do all the tips suggested here but if you can begin with at least one or two, you will be on your way to an improved quality of life for both you and your loved one.