Does your home need to be more dementia-friendly? Here’s a few simple ways to make sure the person you care about stays safe and comfortable this Christmas, whether they’re in your home or their own.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make your home more suitable for someone with dementia. With a bit of thought and forward planning, you can improve their safety and reduce your stress this festive season. Here’s how:
Clear up your clutter
The area of the brain that controls coordination and balance can be affected by dementia, which is why mobility can become an issue. But you can reduce their risk of trips and falls by removing any unnecessary obstacles (including children’s toys, shoes or piles of clothes and books) and creating clear pathways so that the person you care about can move easily around the house. You might also consider rolling up rugs and moving coffee tables from the centre of the floor.
Let there be light
Dementia can cause visuospatial difficulties. Installing brighter light bulbs around the home is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to make life easier for people living with dementia and to improve home safety, particularly during the dark days of winter.
Little things mean a lot
Don’t underestimate the power of a few small tweaks. For example, installing a grab rail, a smoke alarm and a night light could make a world of difference, especially if your loved one likes to potter around the kitchen or is staying overnight.
Feel at home
Getting used to a new environment isn’t easy when you have dementia. Activities that others take for granted – such as switching on the TV – can be impossible. So make sure someone is on hand to help them operate every day equipment. Remember, many people living with dementia fear becoming ‘a burden’ on their family and friends so keep telling them how welcome they are and help them to feel at home.
Tip: If your TV has them stumped, why not invest in a simple remote control which they can use whenever they come to stay, or even take home with them.
Make it easy on yourself
Do they already have waterproof bedding, or special cups or plates? If these items could be brought to your house it could save you a lot of money and stress.
What if YOU are visiting them?
People with dementia often feel safer, happier and calmer in a familiar environment. All things considered, it might be easier for you to visit them at Christmas, especially if they live a fair distance away. This will also give you a good opportunity to observe how they’re managing generally. Dementia is a progressive condition so coping strategies that worked well even a couple of months ago, might no longer be effective.
Ask yourself: Are they sitting comfortably?
Getting up out of a chair can become a lot trickier for people with dementia, particularly if they have other health conditions too such as stiff joints or arthritis. If the person you love seems to be struggling more to get out of their favourite armchair or sofa, it can have a significant impact on their quality of life. For example, it can mean they put off going to the toilet, or to the kitchen to make a drink or meal.
What you can do:
* Make sure walking frames and sticks are always within easy reach when they’re sitting down.
* Consider buying a set of chair raisers. If their favourite chair is supportive enough but just too low down, a set of risers which can increase the chair’s height by several inches, might be all you need.
* Invest in a rise recliner chair. Recliner chairs are designed to provide maximum support and comfort, and allow the person using it to stay rested, relaxed and in control. They are usually simple to operate – just press a button to change the position. Recliners are definitely an investment buy – but worth considering if the person you care about has a lot of trouble getting out of their usual armchair or doesn’t seem able to get comfortable. Perhaps the whole family could club together to buy one?