Creating a comfortable environment for people living with dementia is crucial for their wellbeing. Whether you have been diagnosed yourself, or care for someone living with dementia, there are simple things you can do to make home welcoming and calming. We spoke with Allen Power, Schlegel Research Chair in Aging and Dementia Innovation, to get tips from the expert himself.
An ideal environment for people living with dementia should have minimal background noise or competing sounds. As a care partner, ensure that the TV or music playing is kept at a comfortable volume and be mindful of the noises generated by everyday activities like cooking or cleaning. Avoid loud or sudden noises.
Aging and dementia can lead to changes with touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. For instance, people may feel cold more often. Additionally, peripheral vision can decrease, and many people with dementia smell smoke or foul odors that may cause them to investigate or want to leave the area. By understanding common sensory changes you can create a more comfortable living environment.
Improper lighting can cause confusion and stress for people living with dementia. Ensure that the living space is well-lit, with natural light during the day and soft, warm lighting in the evening. Lamps instead of overhead lighting can help with this. Avoid harsh, direct lighting or abrupt transitions between light and dark areas. Consider using nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to provide a gentle guide during nighttime hours.
The decor in a living space can greatly impact the wellbeing of a person living with dementia. Decorate in a way that minimizes glare and avoid flooring with busy patterns – dark circles or stripes can look like holes in the floor. Personalize the space with familiar objects, photos, or artwork that evoke positive memories and help to maintain a connection with the individual’s past.
Lastly, arranging furniture to promote engaging conversation can enhance the sense of belonging for someone living with dementia. Position chairs and sofas to face each other to create cozy and inviting conversation areas. Remove clutter and unnecessary items to make it easier to navigate the space and reduce the risk of falls or accidents.
The presence of dementia may increase the person’s distress, but it is rarely the root cause. Often, people may simply be responding to the limitations of their environment. Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to creating a comfortable and nurturing space.
To learn more, read the Supporting Comfort and Belonging for people Living with Dementia guide, created by Schlegel Research Chair in Aging and Dementia Innovation, Dr. Allen Power and Laura Aguiar, MPH, BASc.