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Creating a Homelike Environment for Seniors with Alzheimer's or Dementia

July 31, 2015

For people with Alzheimer's or dementia, leaving a familiar home and moving to a new setting that will better support their needs can be stressful. Preparing their personal space to be homelike and inviting can really assist with the adjustment.

Here are some tips to help with the transition:

Incorporate your loved one's personal style into their new living space. Use as much of your loved one's personal furniture as possible. And select window treatments and home furnishings to match their décor preferences (country, traditional, modern, etc.). 

Place photos and pictures at eye level to create a true sense of home and family.

Play music that appeals to your family member, or use a white noise machine. Make sure the volume is appropriate—not too loud or jarring.

Let natural light in! Do not block windows with furniture, and use blinds or curtains that can be easily opened and closed.

Consider increasing artificial light. Moving from 30 foot-candle power (normal home lighting) to 60–70 foot-candle power can cut down on afternoon and evening agitation, improve sleep, and stabilize your loved one's mood.

Keep pathways clear and simple and use night-lights to illuminate a path to the bathroom. If possible, leave a five-foot clearing in the room for a wheelchair to turn around, allowing for four feet in front of the closet and three feet next to the bed.

Make sure dresser drawers move smoothly, and label each drawer to indicate the contents within.

Use sturdy chairs with arms. Avoid furniture that swivels, rocks, or creates movement.

Check the height of the bed and chairs. Your loved one should be able to firmly place their feet on the floor. And if possible, orient the bed as it was in their previous home so they are entering and exiting on the same side as before.

Avoid busy wallpaper and rugs, as excessive patterns increase confusion and frustration in people with memory loss.

Use contrasting colors in the bathroom. Your loved one with memory loss may have trouble distinguishing between white walls, a white sink, and a white toilet. 

Use brightly colored signs or labels on the closet, phone, bathroom door, etc. Individuals with memory loss can forget where things are stored, especially in a new environment. Labeling will give your loved one a feeling of control and independence

Make it easy to distinguish their room from all the others. People with memory loss can forget which room belongs to them. To avoid confusion, use personal memorabilia, photos, and accessories to decorate the door or the area outside their living space.

Keep the personal space simple. This will create a calm environment that's easy to navigate. Cluttered, overcrowded spaces can overwhelm those with memory loss.