September marks World Alzheimer’s Month; an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that can surround dementia.
For those living with dementia, creating the right living environment is essential to reduce stress and anxiety and promoting overall wellbeing.
How can we all help to create that ‘right environment’? Simple changes can make a big difference.
People living with dementia often experience changes in vision which may mean that similar colours blend in to each other and become indistinguishable. Complex patterns on fabrics, furniture and walls can also be confusing and a dark rug on the floor may look like a hole they think they may fall down. As you can imagine this can increase anxiety, agitation and confusion for the person and lead to distress for them and their carer.
Consider the use of lighting within the living environment. Try to maximise natural light from windows and doors and use bright lights to illuminate dark spots such as stairs.
At night, use bedside touch lights and possibly automatic lights for when the individual gets out of bed so that the person with dementia is never left in the dark when moving around.
Use contrasting bold, block colours to replace confusing patterns. Choose bright coloured material for curtains as this will help remind the person with dementia to open them. Using bright colours for crockery, grab rails, switches and toilet seats will also make all of these easy to find. When a person can find their own things this promotes independence.
Make sure that hot and cold water taps are clearly marked so that the person with dementia can distinguish easily between them. You could support this further by using colours with the words, for example red with hot and blue with cold.
Using night and day clocks and signs above or next to doors to reduce the person’s confusion and risk. All of these help the person living with dementia to maintain a level of independence in their everyday lives.
Leave out everyday items as prompts, for example leave out cups and the things needed to make tea or coffee on the kitchen worktop instead of in a cupboard. This will act as a visual prompt to the person. You can also put photographs on the outside of the cupboard to remind the person what is inside the cupboard.
Keep changing things as you need to. The needs of the person living with dementia will change over time, keep reviewing how the environment can be adapted to keep it dementia friendly.
For more advice on living with dementia or supporting someone who is living with dementia, you can watch our Dementia Care Videos here.
To find out more about World Alzheimer’s Month, visit the campaign website here.