Did you know that Dementia affects close to half a million Australians? And that number is set to double in the next 25 years?
Dementia Action Week is this week and the theme for this year is “A little support makes a lot of difference”.
It is our role as a community to do the best we can to support people living with dementia to live well for as long as possible.
The week aims to educate the community about dementia. It helps by providing resources and support for people and their carers who are living with dementia.
Each person who has dementia is affected differently. However, common challenges include trouble remembering, thinking, processing, and reasoning. This means that we need to connect with each individual based on their skills and abilities.
Many people, like dementia advocates can share their personal experience of modifying their home environments due to dementia. This allows them to lead meaningful, and active lives at home, with their family and community.
Today, the majority of people with dementia are living in home environments. This is often recommended to maintain a sense of familiarity and comfort with the place they lived in before being diagnosed with dementia.
As there are limited community and social events everyone is spending more time at home. Therefore, now is a good time to start thinking about making these small changes. Even if your loved one is at an earlier stage of dementia, it is important to start thinking and planning for the months and years ahead.
Some of the benefits of Dementia-friendly homes are:
By making small changes around the home, your loved one can stay more independent while maintaining a positive outlook.
To ensure that their house is safe and comfortable for them, here are some suggestions to create a dementia-friendly home.
One of the first steps to creating a dementia-friendly home is ensuring that there is lots of natural light. This allows your loved one to see their surroundings clearly.
This is important because it is easy for someone with dementia to get disoriented. Natural light also helps distinguish between day and night.
Finally, sunshine can bring an element of positivity and happiness to their day.
Similarly, however, it is very important to have good blinds, especially in their bedroom. This will ensure that there is no light peeking through the blinds at night.
Having a companion pet to cuddle up with can also create a sense of calm and positivity in the home.
Finally, placing photos on visible shelves assists with these goals. These mementos help your loved one remember positive times with their family and friends.
While for people with dementia, short term memory is weak, many have clear memories of childhood and early adulthood.
The photos provide a trigger for positive memories and interesting conversation.
Many things around the house would not be considered unsafe for most people.
However, when someone with dementia is living there, it is important to be cautious to ensure there is nothing dangerous accessible.
Some things to do include:
Often people with dementia struggle to remember what is inside each cupboard in their home. This is especially challenging in the kitchen where many cupboards and drawers look similar from the outside.
Similarly, in bedrooms, clothes drawers and cupboards often appear the same from the outside.
People can forget what is inside each cupboard and get frustrated opening each one to find a spoon or jumper.
A method to combat this challenge is to include labels or even photos on the outside of each cupboard with what is inside of them. This can help remind your loved one what is inside and minimize the frustration of checking each one.
Ensuring that your loved ones are eating healthy food is important.
To do that, the kitchen must be safe to allow them to feel comfortable using the appliances.
Another eating challenge that often arises is distinguishing between the table, their plate, and the food. This is even more common with little contrast between the colours of these items.
Buying table accessories and crockery with contrasting colours such as white placemats and red plates can create a stronger contrast. This achieves the goal of helping your loved one identify the table, plate, and food as separate items.
For the bathroom to be a dementia-friendly space, it is important to remove as much clutter as possible like in other areas of the house. This ensures that the important parts of the bathroom are accessible and not crowded with other unnecessary items.
Another trick in the bathroom is to make it clear where important things such as the toilet, sink, and light are. Since many bathroom items such as light switches and toilet seats are white, they can be difficult to identify and distinguish.
Placing a strip of dark tape around the perimeter of the light switch can make it easier and quicker to find. Buying a coloured toilet seat can help better identify the toilet to avoid accidents. Using hand towels with contrasting colours can also make them easier to identify. Installing a sensor light can help prevent falls in the bathroom.
Having a dedicated place to track appointments and check the time is another important part of creating a dementia-friendly home.
Specific things that help achieve this goal are:
To help identify which of these changes might be most helpful for your loved one, you can apply for support through the NDIS. They can provide an occupational therapist who can help make personalised recommendations for your loved one’s home. And, funding may be available to help purchase certain items to help make these necessary changes.
Another resource that is available to help is the dementia-friendly home app. It was created to give you ideas to make your loved one who is living with dementia more accessible.
Overall, small changes in someone’s home who is living with dementia can lead to big results.
Your Home. Your Health. We Care.