“Someone with dementia may have poor concentration or memory, causing them to forget their mobility aid or to use their wheelchair brakes,” explains Marni Tory, an occupational therapist and Dementia Advisor with Proactive Seniors. “In addition, they may have decreased insight into their physical limitations or may misinterpret their environment and fail to recognize unsafe situations. Coordination difficulties, visual challenges, environmental hazards or medication side effects can also make navigating the home difficult. And they may have difficulty with depth perception, peripheral vision, judging distances or dealing with patterns and shadows.”
Luckily, from maintaining mobility to increased lighting, there are steps you can take to prevent a fall from happening in the first place.
Here are Tory’s top 14 tips for creating a dementia-inclusive home:
- Keep walking paths and stairs clear of clutter.
- Tape electrical cords to the wall.
- Provide tables to bring items like laundry baskets to eye-level.
- Place furniture to prevent creating obstacles without moving or taking away items that a person may grab for stability.
- Place mobility aids at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Secure shelves to the wall and place non-slip matting under furniture.
- Provide visual and wayfinding cues.
- Ensure adequate lighting. Proper lighting can reduce shadows, light the way to the bathroom and can assist with safety, especially on stairs.
- Use automatic motion sensor lights; they’re a good way to alert family that the person living with dementia is up and may need supervision.
- Determine whether the bedroom and bathroom need transfer poles, shower chairs, grab bars and raised toilet seats. Properly placed grab bars can be the difference between an independent safe transfer or getting stuck on the toilet.
- Highlight stair edges or top and bottom stairs with contrasting colours or tape.
- Redesign storage areas, organizing commonly used items within reach.
- Manage floor surfaces, reducing glare and avoiding patterns.
- People living with dementia may have difficulty separating similar colours and setting objects and their backgrounds apart. Use contrasting colours to help with identification (toilet seats, tubs, doors, dishwashers, etc.).