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Aging in Place With DementiaNovember 16th, 2020 by
Approximately 5.2 million Americans live with dementia – more than 10% of those between the ages of 65 and 80 have some form of the disease, while 50% of individuals over the age of 85% have it.
Many families are ill-prepared to deal with the challenges the disease presents. As the disease progresses, cognitive abilities, balance, depth perception and coordination deteriorate. Seemingly harmless items such as mirrors, busy wallpaper and pictures can cause confusion, and everyday items such as steps, throw rugs, toys or clutter can create tripping hazards.
Aging in place is certainly possible for many individuals who live with dementia. Doing so requires careful planning, forethought and an all-hands-on-deck approach when it comes to the remodeling a home. If you want to help a loved one stay in their family home for as long as possible, below are a few home improvement ideas to discuss with a professional home remodeler.
Remodeling a Home To Make It Dementia Safe
A dementia safe home does not just reduce the risk of falling and physical injury. Though physical safety should certainly be top of mind when designing a safe space in your own home or remodeling your loved one’s home, it’s equally as important to create a dementia-friendly environment in which your elderly loved one can thrive.
A dementia safe home should contain about two times the normal amount of lighting than a typical home. This recommendation is in place for several reasons. For one, it helps to compensate for the aging effects of dementia on the eyes. Two, it helps to regulate the circadian rhythm and promotes better sleep. Finally, and probably most importantly of all, proper lighting can help improve mood.
According to one study, exposure to natural light first thing in the morning set dementia patients up for a day of better moods and reduced symptoms of depression. Not enough exposure to natural morning light, on the other hand, can leave your elderly loved one feeling sluggish and moody. To prevent the latter from occurring, allow as much daylight into the home as possible. Remove curtains and use “homestyle” lighting, such as lamps and sconces, instead of overhead lighting, which can feel institutional.
In addition to upping the lighting, you should also use contrasting colors throughout the home. Contrast helps individuals with dementia easily see useful objects, such as a white switch plate against a dark-colored wall, or a green plate against a white placement. Contrast is particularly important in the bathroom, where a white porcelain toilet or tub can easily be lost against a white tile floor.
Remove clutter of both the physical kind and the visual kind, as both can easily confuse individuals who live with dementia. Physical clutter can create a tripping hazard for your loved one and cause him or her to lose focus. Visual clutter, such as busy patterns, can confuse your loved one and possibly cause agitation. Keep décor simple and clean to avoid any adverse effects.
Hide Hazardous Items and Make the Basics Easy To Find
In addition to hiding the obvious, such as kitchen knives, appliances, matches, weapons and other dangerous objects, hide items that could possibly pose a threat to your loved one’s safety. Think fake fruit, food-shaped magnets, plastic bags, alcohol, cigarettes and scissors.
Likewise, make useful everyday objects easy to find. These items include toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper, cups, plates and eating utensils. If you’re worried about your loved one using silverware, keep a container of plasticware on the counter.
Install Locks Out of Sight
Individuals with dementia are prone to wandering, which also happens to be one of the biggest risks associated with the disease. To prevent your loved one from wandering, install locks out of sight, such as up high or down low. Keep a pair of keys hidden for yourself so that you can go in and out to check on your loved one as needed.
On doors that do not require locks, like bathroom and bedroom doors, remove them. Doing so will prevent your loved one from accidentally locking themself in a room within the home.
Overhaul the Bathroom
Bathrooms are particularly difficult for dementia patients to navigate, as they are often small, contain shiny objects and utilize little contrast. A dementia safe bathroom utilizes matte surfaces, has a raised toilet, contains a walk-in tub, and features labels and visual aids. For example, clearly label hot and cold water taps and add a highly visible target in the toilet bowl. Finally, address slippery surfaces by using non-slip strips and mats.
Make Use of Smart Home Tools
Creating a home that is safe for an elderly parent who lives with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a comprehensive undertaking, and you may discover that you missed a few hazards during your initial home evaluation and remodel. Smart home tools, such as a monitoring system, can allow you to keep tabs on your loved one and to identify further hazards. It can also give you peace of mind for those moments you can’t there to ensure their ongoing safety.
Work With an Experienced Contractor
The best way to ensure the safety of your loved one is to work with a remodeling contractor who has experience in creating safe spaces for dementia patients. Find a Five Star Rated contractor near you today.
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