The space that we live in is important to us all and can have a big impact on the wellbeing of people affected by dementia. There are two key issues to the answer to that question; firstly it can keep them safer and secondly it can enhance their life and make them happy.
A living space that has the doors within it open is easier to navigate around, as they can see into the rooms to know if they might want to go in there, that is assuming that they are in a house / place that they are less familiar with. And glass fronted kitchen cabinets lets them see into those cabinets to help them find what they need.
The improvements that technology has made are amazing and no doubt, there will be further developments in the future. These include programmable locks on the door, so that the front door will open during certain hours, which prevents wandering outside in the middle of the night. There are sensors that can tell when someone is, moving around their home, at what time and how fast and after a short time will work out what is “normal” for that person, so can raise an alert if something isn’t “normal” for someone to go an investigate. Cameras can be installed, but these can be invasive, so care should be taken to consider the dignity and independence of the person with dementia and whether monitoring them that closely is appropriate. It is also possible to install cameras and then have some privacy blurring, so that on the monitor screen intimate parts of the body are not shown.
Painting the door the same colour as the wall will discourage someone from going through it as it will blend and the existence of the door being there will be less apparent, whilst colour contrast helps the person with dementia see the door, which makes it more inviting. This issue of contrast is also true for things like crockery and cutlery, a plate or bowl with a coloured rim, helps the person see their plate, to make independent eating easier.
There are also many products that can help with disability adaptions to make living in the environment easier and safer, slip mats in the bath, as well as rise and recline chairs, to name a few, but there are many more.
It is worthwhile thinking about how the person lives in their space, what is important to them and what might make that easier or nicer for them. If they never go to high cupboards or are tall, then steps won’t make much difference, but something to put the remote control or the TV magazine in might make it easier to find each time.
Considerations can be made to making the living space a cheerful one for the person with dementia to live in. What does the person enjoy? They might like picture of family and friends, but these may need to be old pictures, as the person with dementia might remember their grandchild at the age of 3 and don’t recognise the same 20 year old grandchild standing in front of them.
What were the hobbies and interests of the person with dementia? Can they have a magazine subscription, which gives them different pictures to look at each month, even if they don’t read many of the articles? Do they like plants and flowers, if so, what kind? Can their garden be planted with sensory plants that smell or might taste nice if they eat them?
Although candles that smell nice might be dangerous if unattended, a battery operated candle has a similar look, along with a plug in fragrance that they would like would work as a good substitute. The colours on the walls can be restful or motivating and this might be different in different parts of the house. What is important is what the person with dementia wants, what pictures on the wall and visuals will they like and furnishing textures will appeal, so they like a soft fabric to sit on?
There are also sound apps on the phone or ipad, which might make sleeping easier or make the person calmer if they become anxious, which can then be linked to Alexa. The person with dementia might like a playlist of songs or sounds that they enjoy or reminds them of something really important to them. They might be songs that they sing along to, which triggers memories for them.
It would not be the right thing to paint the walls beige for every person with dementia as soon as they get a diagnosis! Whatever happens to the environment of the person with dementia, it should be the right thing for them and this might change over time, however there are lots of things that can be done to improve the living environment for them.