Most people who are living with dementia prefer to stay in the home where they feel comfortable, surrounded by the furniture and décor they’ve grown to love, for as long as possible. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you can help them stay safe, comfortable, and independent by paying attention to good home design from floor to ceiling, inside and out – even if they can no longer stay in their own home.
“Good design is a way to promote a caring and supportive environment that’s personalized for the person living with dementia,” said Janice Greeno, senior outreach program manager at Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, AZ. “Home should be a place of safety, refuge, comfort and support. It should be a place where people with dementia can flourish, find rest and joy, and have the best quality of life as possible – a place where they feel valued and loved.”
By focusing on safety, comfort and support, you can help build a space that encourages healthy routines, maintains a sense of ownership and promotes increased independence. “Well-designed homes create empowering spaces that can set people up for success,” Greeno said.
As much as possible, center the design process around the person who is living with dementia. Keep in mind that each person with dementia is affected differently. If the person you are designing for is in the early stages of dementia, they may be able to be a part of the process. You can have a conversation with them and ask their thoughts, opinions, likes and dislikes.
If you sense the conversation is producing stress, incorporate what you already know about them, such as their favorite comforting items. And remember that what brings them comfort now might be something different than what did in the past.
Often, people with dementia have lived in the same home for years, and what worked for their home design when they were younger, healthier, and perhaps raising children, isn’t necessarily the best design for the way they live today. It’s important to look at a home, and each room, with a fresh mindset, looking for ways to make it easier for your loved one to live there safely and comfortably. And it’s a good idea to repeat this process periodically. People with dementia change, and their home design may need to change along with them.
Greeno recommends thinking about the person’s five senses when personalizing the space:
- Touch – incorporate the textures they like, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Make sure bedding and fabrics on upholstered furniture are inviting.
- Sound – play their favorite music, provide times of quiet and calm, and include spaces and technology that promote talks and social connections. Make it easy for them to control the music so they can change it according to their mood.
- Sight – ask them which items and colors they would like to decorate with. You may want to give them specific items or questions to consider if they get overwhelmed with decisions.
- Smell – try incorporating aromatherapy into their space. Lavender can promote calm feelings, while citrus can bring energy.
- Taste – provide food and snack options they like so when they get hungry or would like a treat, they can reach for something easily.
For additional design tips and helpful strategies caregivers can use, check out our infographic below.