Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 14th of December 2016.
For people living with dementia, creating a relaxing environment is incredibly important to help minimise confusion and agitation, helping them feel calm and able to concentrate. There are a number of factors you should consider when creating the perfect environment for a person living with dementia.
Here are the top 5:
Sound, including background noise, can cause undue stress on a person living with dementia. If sound reverberates too much it can create an effect which can agitate and disorientate. Introducing noise absorbing materials and soft furnishings, like carpets and curtains, to reduce the sound works well. Similarly, if outdoor noise becomes too much for a person living with dementia, keep windows shut. Double glazing should be installed if possible as this reduces outside noise even further.
However, seemingly to contradict the point above, silence can be equally as disorientating to people with dementia. Therefore, gentle and soft background noise can be calming. Perhaps try a familiar radio station with low music and gentle chatter.
Home furnishings can unwittingly cause distress for people living with dementia. They may mistake their own reflection in a mirror for that of a stranger watching them, which is a very frightening experience. Either remove all mirrors or cover them with a roller blind that can be pulled down when the mirror is not in use.
Similar effects to the mirror can be caused by street lights at night on the window, causing reflections to be seen. These can easily be interpreted by a person living with dementia as a stranger looking through the window, causing them to feel frightened and agitated. As soon as dark sets in make sure that all curtains are drawn to avoid this happening.
When choosing colours in a room, try to ensure that the walls and floors are contrasting colours. The definition between the two colours will help a person with dementia, helping to prevent them from getting lost or falling.
Lighting is incredibly important for people living with dementia. People with dementia are often older and so may be struggling with their sight. It is integral to ensure that items are easily visible. Keep all rooms well lit.
Utilise natural light as much as possible, but where electrical lights need to be used make sure the bulbs are of a high wattage.
Also, pay attention to the positioning of lamps, overhead lights etc, as pools of light and dark may agitate or frighten a person with dementia. Shadows can be misinterpreted as something or someone threatening, leading a person with dementia to feel distressed and scared.
Whether a person with dementia is living in a care home or with the family, it is important that they have a place to retreat to when they are feeling stressed or anxious.
This doesn’t need to be a large area, it can simply be a comfy chair and a small table. But it is a calming place, separate to the hubbub of the rest of the house, where they can relax and perhaps do soothing activities, like painting or a jigsaw.
For someone who is living with dementia, losing items can be incredibly stressful. Therefore, it is a good idea to ensure that items are easy to find and within reaching distance.
You can place stickers on the cupboards, listing what can be found within them. Or replace cupboard doors with glass doors so all the items inside can be seen. This will encourage a person with dementia to be independent where possible, and help eliminate any stress they may feel when looking for something.