If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with dementia, this article may be of some assistance to those who remain at home and do not go for aided care. It may be beneficial to keep on living at home as long as physically safe, as it provides comfort and a feeling of safety and control. We'll start with some general tips for a better quality of life, and then provide you with some specific tips and tricks you can start applying to your home today! In my opinion, everyone could benefit from some of the tips as they just make life easier.
What is the Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms that impact memory and other cognitive skills such as communication, the daily performance of household activities, and awareness of surroundings. People who suffer from dementia may forget where they are or how they got there, how appliances work, they may experience troubles with mobility, and changes in hearing, vision, and perception of depth and temperature. The tips in the article are meant to cater to the needs of people who, despite those difficulties, can still manage themselves at home.
Alzheimer's disease can be included in the many symptoms of dementia. It mainly affects memory and cognitive functions. Patients will often feel disoriented or depressed. In the advanced stages of the disease, there will be difficulties speaking, swallowing, or walking.
Another important thing to know about the differences is that unlike Alzheimer's, dementia doesn't have a predictable development timeline, so the progress of the disease is different for each individual.
General Changes Around the Home
- When you first start making changes in your home, the best tip we can give you for guidance is to focus on prevention rather than caution. Instead of walking around a rug, for instance, remove it altogether.
- Make sure your house is well lit. Open the curtains, cut any vegetation outside the windows that could be over-shading your home, and if needed, add some lamps that will also contribute to the feeling of warmth.
- Keep family photos and happy memorabilia around the home for good spirits. You might be facing some struggles along your journey, and looking back on happy memories will keep you in good spirits. You can stroll down our many nostalgic posts as well.
- Spending time outside will be beneficial. If you have a garden and you enjoy it, consider adding a birdbath or a bird feeder to attract some welcome avian visitors. Make sure your outdoor sitting area is well shaded so you can spend the time comfortably and safely.
- Research how can you use technology to help you. Nowadays there are sensors for gas leaks, smoke, water temperature, and many more potentially hazardous incidents that will alert or switch off your devices before anything bad happens. You can even purchase an automated feeder for your pet.
- Call in your family and host a de-cluttering day. Your home should be organized, easy to navigate, and clutter-free. These projects will do the trick in no time!
Some Specific Tips
- Labels, labels, labels! Tag any and everything you can. Post-it notes will be of good use here.
Mark on every light switch what it controls and where the on and off ones are. Label the hot and cold water on the faucet as well.
- Speaking of post-its, these will come in handy with any and all storage solutions. You can keep a shortlist of the content of a drawer, or use a post-it that says "socks" for example. Keeping a kitchen cabinet inventory list will also be helpful.
- Keep a phonebook by your phone with large font numbers and names. You can also include photos for easy recognition.
- Pop on some colors to help you distinguish between things. We recommend painting all sorts of knobs, doors, or door frames, and purchasing brightly colored pillows to put on the couches.
- Purchase a large face clock and calendar to keep up with the times. Alternatively, choose a smart/digital one that will always display the correct time and date and will update to daylight savings automatically.
- Install grab rails around the stairs and inside the shower.
- Hang a sign on the bathroom door to signal to yourself (and visitors) where it is. Consider using brightly colored tissues, paper rolls, and a brightly colored toilet seat. The bright colors will help you find these items if you experience difficulties with vision.
- Have a designated area to drop the mail and keys, and a designated brightly colored box for all remotes. Label all remotes. You can tape down with black tape any buttons you don't use and keep only the on-off, volume, and channel buttons visible.
- If you're considering a heavy-duty renovation, make sure to not choose shiny flooring. When choosing a color for the walls, avoid patterns as they are confusing. In the garden, you can install raised flower beds for easy gardening.
- Make sure your garden is enclosed and secure to prevent wandering off.
- Use clear containers for food you store in the fridge. If you want to go the extra mile you can even tag them with post-it notes. You might want to replace your plates with a lightweight, breakproof material.
- Hang all your clothes in a hanging closet, so that browsing will be easy.
- Avoid harmful chemicals. You can either lock them away if you have a caregiver that helps with cleaning or simply switch to harmless natural cleaners. We have plenty of DIY alternatives for you:
A natural all-purpose cleaner
An oven cleaner
A rust stain remover
A dishwasher detergent, a fabric refresher, and a laundry soap
A window cleaner
- You may notice reflections and mirrors bother you. You can simply cover those with a fabric.
And finally, help yourself to a collection of resources:
1. Information source for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
2. Information and tips for caregivers.
3. An online book for tips in the format of an Ikea catalog.
4. An online booklet on further tips for making your home dementia safe.
5. A Facebook support group for caregivers.