2.7 Dementia Friendly Environments
The objective is to provide information on what friendly environments are with practical advice so that people always feel part of the community in which they live and can actively participate. The person may be living in a care home situation or they may be cared for in their own home.
By the end of this topic, you will:
- Better quality of own life and of the life of the person who is cared for even at home
- Increased sense of confidence in own abilities as a formal caregiver
- Better ability to understand the behavior of the person with dementia
According to the indications of “Dementia Friendly Community-Key Principles”, promoted by Alzheimer Disease International, it is a place or a culture whose cornerstones are accessibility, inclusion, empowerment of people with dementia and their families to manage the difficulties they encounter in living in public spaces, promoting their well-being and a friendly environment.
There are many aspects to deliver dementia friendly homes, as mentioned below:
- LIGHTING: Good lighting helps a person see clearly and make sense of where they are.
- Changes in the colour of the floor from room to room, rugs or dark floor mats can sometimes look like something you need to step over.
- FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS. Using bright and contrasting colours for furniture and furnishings helps everybody see things more easily. Contrast the colours of furniture, including beds, tables, chairs and lamps with the walls and floor.
- KNOWING WHERE THINGS ARE. Visual clues such as putting pictures or labels on the outside of cupboards, wardrobes and drawers can help with this.
- EATING AND DRINKING well is important for health: Use brightly coloured cloths, towels and kitchen rolls that contrast with surfaces and appliances. Make sure the items used every day are easy to find. Use clear plastic containers to store food so that inside can be seen.
Module 4 of this course covers this topic in detail so there is just an overview here.
KEEPING ACTIVE AND ENGAGED can really improve quality of life, so making sure that the person can still enjoy doing their favourite things and stay in contact with people is important.
Being able to see and get outside throughout the year can improve wellbeing. Gardening or enjoying nature can be very therapeutic. If the person’s front door is easy to recognise, this will help prevent them from feeling disorientated.
A clock and calendar will help them remember the time and date so they do not miss appointments or events.
- Make sure items like puzzles, photographs or books are easy to find.
- Make sure the person can see the outside through their windows.
- Place a chair (and table if needed) so that they can sit and watch what’s happening outside.
- Make sure that there is somewhere sheltered to sit outside.
- Make sure a large-faced clock and calendar can be seen.
- Check the telephone is easy to use.
- Put a photo of a friend or family member next to their telephone number, to help the person remember who to call.
- Put a whiteboard where it can be seen easily, so you can write reminders of things to do.
- Make sure there are some chairs with arms, as they are much easier to use.
Feeling safe and confident in your own home (a care home is also ‘their’ home) is very important, especially if a person is living on their own. There are different types of grab rails, alarms and sensors, including smoke detectors that can be installed to help them stay safe at home.
Professionals, for example occupational therapists, the fire and rescue service, or home improvement agencies can help them make their home safe. It is also important to keep a home at an appropriate temperature throughout the seasons to prevent the person getting too hot or too cold.
- Lock away any potentially hazardous or sharp items.
- Make sure the TV and radio are switched off if not in use.
- Check thermostat settings as the weather changes.
- Reduce the temperature of hot water to avoid scalds.
- Make sure ICE (in case of emergency) numbers are near the telephone.
- Consider using socket covers if sockets are not being used.
- Get gas or electric fires checked for safety.
- Check that door handles and locks are easy to see and use.
- Consider installing grab rails on stairs or along long walls
Making a home dementia friendly is extremely important to the person with dementia, making a difference to their everyday life.
A person with dementia will appreciate the fact that the home will be less confusing and not be restrictive.
Some of these ideas will need to be tried and tested, as everyone experiences dementia in their own way. Some things are quick and easy; others will take more time and money and may need external assistance.
- Environmental Interventions and the Design of Homes for Older Adults with Dementia: An Overview. J. van Hoof, MSc,1,2 H. S. M. Kort, PhD, MSc,1,2, H. van Waarde, MSc, RN,3 and M. M. Blom, MSc3
- Guiding design of dementia friendly environments in residential care settings Considering the living experiences SANDRA DAVIS Monash University,Australia SUZANNE BYERS Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care,Australia RHONDA NAY LaTrobe University,Australia SUSAN KOCH LaTrobe University,Australia