Creating a dementia-friendly home

By Alzheimers Auckland

Everyone wants a home where they can feel secure and independent.

As you age, especially if you have dementia or are looking after someone living with dementia, it becomes more important to make your house easy to navigate.

If you’re making changes on behalf of someone living with dementia, remember to involve them in the decision-making process as much as possible.

Dementia affects everyone differently and unnecessary changes can cause confusion.

Nonetheless, there are a few across-the-board ways to improve your home, and help keep any accidents or confusion at bay:

Woman looks up with seedling tray

Improve the lighting

You may find that someone’s vision changes as their dementia progresses.

  • Remove big hedges or trees blocking light into the house
  • Keep curtains open during the day to let as much light in as possible
  • Remove any unnecessary blinds or nets
  • Improve the lighting, especially around stairs and in the bathroom
  • Close the curtains at night - reflections can be confusing
  • Use lots of lamps and higher wattage bulbs at night
  • Leave lights on in the bathroom
  • Consider nightlights to help find the bathroom in the dark
  • If possible, place the bed so they can see the toilet
  • Try to minimise shadows.

Remove trip hazards

Older people are at higher risk of falling, especially with dementia, and have more difficulty recovering.

  • Check for hazards like loose rugs, objects on the floor, and long cables
  • Make sure to keep objects that are used regularly in easy reach
  • If you notice a decline, remove things like sharp knives.

Hot water temperatures

Some people living with dementia may find it difficult to tell the difference between hot and cold temperatures.

  • The hot water cylinder should be set at 60C but a plumber should be called in to alter the tempering valve so the water when it comes out of the tap is delivered at 45C
  • You can have a tempering valve fitted where there isn’t one, such as in older homes.

Use labels with pictures and words

  • Help ease forgetfulness by showing exactly what is inside every drawer, cabinet or door.
  • A bulletin board with a daily routine that you can point them to regularly might be helpful
  • Any instructions should be placed at eye level.

Elderly hand held by another’s hands

Simplify appliances

  • Use devices which have one function and are easy to identify like a kettle
  • Things which have multiple functions andbuttons are confusing
  • Appliances which switch off automatically, or have timers, are best.

Secure the outdoor area

Moving around outside and getting fresh air is great for maintaining mental health as well as good physical health, appetites, sleep habits, and a sense of independence.

  • Provide plenty of seating and shade, and secure any outdoor spaces well to stop wandering
  • Paint a white outline on any outside steps
  • Keep tiles or ground surfaces flat and even, to help prevent tripping
  • Create a focal point for the garden, like a bird feeder or bird bath, or a raised flowerbed so they can enjoy the garden despite restricted mobility.

There are lots of simple things that you can do around the home to make it easier for someone living with dementia.

You don’t have to have specialty equipment or a home remodel led.

By keeping access, balanced stimulation and an unobtrusive layout in mind, you can make it easier for everyone to get around while easing some stress and worry too.

Alzheimers Auckland is one of many local non-profits across New Zealand which helps provide support, education, information and related services to members of the community who are affected by dementia.