woman helping her mother with dementia at home

The Dementia Journey – Adapting the Home

Part Three – Home Adaptations

An unexpected roadblock does not have to mean the end of your journey, you just need to plan a detour.  Whether you have received a dementia diagnosis yourself, or your loved one is facing this roadblock, it will take adaptation, education, and lots of support to travel this detour.  Those who will be most successful will identify and utilize all the resources available to them for the journey and make many adaptations along the way.   This is probably most concretely evident in the home environment.  Whether we are talking about a current family home or, eventually, a care facility, adaptations to a person’s living environment can have a profound effect on a successful journey.  

Most people with a dementia diagnosis want to stay in their own home for as long as possible.  While this is the preferred option, people often face multiple challenges due to a deterioration in their physical and cognitive abilities caused by their diagnosis.  Providing services and physical modifications to the environment can help make remaining at home with a good quality of life, an achievable goal.  

Home modifications can be as simple as removing clutter and putting away unnecessary items.  When there is a lot of clutter around it can make it more difficult for someone with dementia to focus on the things that they need at the moment.  

Use everyday household items that have good visual contrast.  For example, a white plate on a dark table or placemat; or a dark bathmat on a white tile floor.   High contrast is easier for the brain to interpret.  Conversely, busy patterns are visually confusing and harder for the brain to interpret. Too much visual stimulation can cause agitation.  Keep things simple and bold.  

Be aware of doors.  Someone that is confused may not always remember where rooms are in the home.  So, keep interior doors open to their bedroom and areas that you would like them to have access to.  Of course, if there are rooms that they should not have access to keep the doors closed to avoid drawing attention to those areas.  Consider putting simple queuing signs on doorways.  For example, a simple drawing of a toilet in the bathroom or a bed on the bedroom door.  Use adaptive items like a large print calendar and/or a specialized clock that very clearly states the time, time of day (morning, evening, etc.) day, and date.  

In the kitchen and/or bathroom label faucets hot and cold.  Put away or hide items that could be unsafe or that you don’t want your loved one to find. Keeping things out of sight often is all that it takes to create a safer environment.  Make sure that medications are safely stored in child-proof containers and that they are closely supervised when administered.  Consider adaptative equipment such as raised toilet seats and grab bars around the toilet and in the shower.  

If your loved one tends to wander outside alone consider putting a secondary lock higher up on a door.  A simple sliding bolt is often enough to discourage a dementia patient from wandering off and getting lost or injured.  

Home care companies can provide in-home aides to assist you during this time.  They can provide direct care to your loved one, or a respite for you to leave the house for some time for yourself.  

If you are facing the roadblock of a dementia diagnosis, no matter how far ahead the actual detour may be, it is crucial that you identify your resources.  Although this is all uncharted territory for you, Van Dyck Law Firm is very familiar with the agencies and resources available for this detour.  Our expert Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys along with our compassionate and experienced Life Care Resources Team are here to help guide you and support you on this unexpected detour.

Linda Mundie, Director of Life Care Resources

Van Dyck Law Firm, 707 State Road, Princeton, NJ 08540

July 2022