Dementia-Safe Living Spaces: Home Modifications to Make Now

According to the CDC, more than one out of four adults age 65 and older falls each year, jeopardizing their health, mobility, and independence – and people with dementia are at higher risk of falling than those without cognitive impairment. “Seniors with dementia carry the normal risks that come with aging, such as loss of balance or muscle weakness, but their disease can also damage their brains’ vision receptors, altering their perception of reality and their ability to recognize potential hazards in the home,” says Suzy McCann, Community Relations Director of YourLife™ of Pensacola, a Memory Care community in Pensacola, Florida. Conditions that increase fall risk for people with dementia include loss of depth perception, blurred or reduced peripheral vision, contrast sensitivity, illusions, and misperceptions. In this post, we’ll list home modifications that can help compensate for visual and mobility challenges to make it easier for your loved one to live safely in their home – now and as their dementia symptoms progress. IN AND AROUND THE HOUSESecure handrails on both sides of indoor and outdoor stairs. Consider installing ramps with safety rails. • Fix broken, loose, or uneven steps, walkways, and flooring. • Place anti-slip tread or no-slip tape on stairs and non-carpeted floors. • Clearly define edges of steps with glow-in-the-dark tape or paint. • Paint door saddles and thresholds to help your loved one identify stairs and entrances. • Add proper lighting in all rooms and entranceways, at the tops and bottoms of stairs, and at each end of a hallway. • Lighting should be even and minimize shadows – some people may mistake a shadow for a hole in the floor, a step, or other obstacle. Increase bulb wattage and add additional task lighting. • Place backlit or illuminated light switches in convenient, easy to reach places. • Keep paths and walkways clear. Don't stack books, papers, clothes, shoes, and other clutter on the floor or stairs. • Keep cords and wires tacked to walls and away from walking paths. • Secure carpets so they don't slip or pose tripping hazards. Put away any throw rugs or small area rugs that cannot be secured. • If your loved one’s furniture, walls, and carpets are similarly colored, consider painting the walls or adding contrasting slipcovers to couches and chairs to make them easier to both find and navigate around. • Arrange furniture to create wide walking paths and keep low coffee tables and ottomans out of the way. • Make sure your loved one’s sofas and chairs are easy to get in and out of.Remove wall mirrors that can make the room harder to process. It can be difficult to accurately identify reflections, which can cause confusion, fear, and anxiety. • Install safety locks on cabinets and drawers containing cleaning supplies, matches, medications, sharp objects, and other potential hazards. • Install secure locks on all outside doors and windows. (Hide a spare outside in case your loved one locks you out!) • Add motion-sensor alarms and/or security cameras by all exit points. • Discourage your loved one from standing on chairs or tables to reach something. Keep frequently used items within easy reach, give your loved one a “reach stick” grabbing tool, and encourage them to ask for help. • Keep an eye on pets. Make sure they are not underfoot or in your loved one’s path. • Keep large-print emergency numbers near all landlines and programmed in your loved one’s cell phone. BATHROOMS AND POWDER ROOMS Mount grab bars on both sides of toilets and on the inside and outside of tubs and showers. • Place contrasting colored, non-skid mats in front of white toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers to make the amenities easy to find and safe to use. • Place no-slip strips on tub and shower floors. • Install temperature-controlled faucets in sinks and showers to avoid scalding. • Install a sturdy shower chair and handheld showerhead. For tubs, consider a transfer bench to help your loved one enter and exit the tub safely. • Install automatic nightlights. • If your loved one must go up or down stairs to bathe, consider a portable, temporary shower. BEDROOM • Install illuminated light switches close to the door and next to the bed. • Install nightlights near the doorway and walking paths. • Place a telephone and/or emergency response system by the bed. • Place an electronic bed pad under their sheet, which will alert you when your loved one gets up and may need assistance. • If your loved one must go up or down stairs to access their bedroom, consider converting a space on the main floor into a bedroom. Not sure where your loved one’s home modifications are needed? Print out AARP’s Home Safety: How Well Does Your Home Meet Your Needs? assessment checklist. Learn how YourLife™ of Pensacola’s dementia-supportive design, furnishings, and safety features help residents live with independence and confidence. Contact our team at 850-290-2632 today! The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves. Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define their own lifestyles. Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unmatched peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible. At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us to learn more!