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How Can I Make My Home Dementia Friendly?

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia affects everyone differently. While a shock to some, to others it can be expected and occasionally, it can even come as a relief. Whatever your unique response to your dementia diagnosis, your home environment will come to play an important role in your future, living with dementia. If you’d like to discuss a recent dementia diagnosis, or talk about your journey, our Wayfinding Team offers 1-2-1 support for both families and people living with dementia.


Whether you remain at home, or move home to receive appropriate support - your space is somewhere you have the right to feel comfortable, secure and safe. Our homes are an extension of who we are as individuals. They represent our personalities, tastes, habits, hobbies and more, and should be protected as such. Many people living with dementia choose to stay at home for as long as possible. For some people, remaining at home can play an important role in living well with dementia. With a few adjustments, staying at home and continuing to enjoy your familiar space is absolutely achievable. You may also want to encourage family members who support you, or whom you visit regularly, to consider how they could tweak their home environments to help you continue to visit with ease.


Staying safe at home

Before thinking about adapting your home to make it more comfortable, the first consideration should always be for your physical safety. Depending on where you are on your unique dementia journey, spending some time making sure you’re safe at home is a great way to gain control of your own future. Being safe at home means you’re more likely to be able to stay there in the long-term. Here is a quick checklist for making sure you stay as safe as possible.


Flooring

  • Is your floor even and smooth?

  • Are all wires and flexes out of harm’s way?

  • Are mats or rugs removed/replaced with appropriate flooring?

  • Are your stair edges outlined and clearly visible?


Furniture

  • Are mirrors or pictures causing confusion or disorientation?

  • Does your furniture contrast from the walls and floor in colour to help spatial awareness?

  • Are there any strong patterns or stripes that might cause confusion?

  • Are your light switches clearly distinguishable from the wall?


Other considerations

  • Have all gas appliances (including gas boilers, gas fires and hobs) been checked for safety?

  • Would grab rails help your mobility and confidence?

  • Have dangerous items been locked away safely?

  • Has your thermostat and water temperature been double checked?

  • Is your garden or outside space free of trip hazards, poison or dangerous objects?


It is important that any alterations and adaptations are suitable for the individual and that risk is minimised. It is therefore recommended that a comprehensive assessment is carried out by a trained occupational therapist prior to making any home adaptations. In terms of risk assessments and safety it is a good idea to book a free “Safe and well check” with your local fire and rescue service in West Sussex (click here). This can enable a person to stay safe whilst retaining as much independence as possible.


Remaining confident and comfortable at home

Once your space is physically safe, you also want to make sure that it’s adapted to suit your changing experience of life. As your dementia journey progresses, clutter, busy patterns and dark spaces can be disconcerting and potentially increase confusion. This might mean a few tweaks need to be made, here are a few ideas:


Lighting

  • Ensure that your home is bright during the day and that your bedroom is dark at night

  • Leave the bathroom light on at night time or purchase plug in night lights

  • Try to reduce any areas of shadow


Organisational habits

  • Label cupboards and drawers to help you find what you need

  • Try clear doors on cupboards or items on open shelving so they are more visible

  • Always keep keys, money and important documents in the same recognisable place

  • Try to remove clutter, especially piles of books or paperwork from the floor


Cooking and preparing food

  • Cutlery and crockery that contrasts with the table make mealtimes easier

  • Clear plastic containers marked with the contents are helpful for identifying items in the fridge or cupboards.

  • Leave regularly used items and appliances on display and labelled

  • Set up “workstations” e.g. a tea making area with everything needed in one place


Using the bathroom

  • Identify the toilet with a door sign including an image as well as text

  • Make sure that the bathroom light easy to find & leave on at night

  • Try a bright coloured toilet seat and toilet paper that contrasts with the wall

  • Grab rails can support with getting in and out of the bath or shower and for helping you on and off the toilet. (See appropriate advice from a community OT)

  • Ensure you use anti-slip mat when washing

  • Use a flood-prevention plug in the bath and basin


If you would like some further support on adapting your home for your future, or advice on how to help a loved one to accept changes in their home, please reach out to our Wayfinding Team. We all have a right to live in a place we love and with a few small adjustments, most homes can be made both safe and dementia friendly.

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