How to adapt your home for relatives with dementia

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Atelier UOA Modern dining room
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Time and tide wait for no man – surely you have heard this adage quite often. And the truth is, we all are going to get old and our mental faculties will probably start rusting! With age, we might start forgetting things and start losing track of time. So if your grandparents are suffering from dementia today, please know that they need reassurance and support more than anything else.

Since their mental abilities are declining, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to think clearly, communicate with people and take care of themselves. The next logical step is to either move your grandparents to a special home for people with dementia, or to bring them into your home. Many people choose the latter option, as this allows them to give back to their grandparents all the love that they received when they were younger.

Naturally, in many cases, the grandchildren become caregivers for grandparents with dementia. After all the childhood years of being looked after by grandparents, this will become a role reversal of sorts for you. Patience and tolerance are essential when it comes to caring for dementia patients. At the same time, you need to let them know that they are respected and your first priority. It is difficult for people with dementia to accept change, so try and avoid rearranging the furniture and let your grandparents get familiar with your home first before anything else.

Understand why they do the things they do

Dementia patients find it difficult to explain their actions and this can be the cause of frustration for you and them. Understand that your grandparent’s behaviour has a reason and a trigger. Be patient when you talk to them and ask them what they need. Wherever possible, try accommodating your grandparent’s needs first. 

A change in behaviour is often triggered by a change in the physical environment, or something someone said to them. To keep this from happening, a schedule is important for every dementia patient. Research a bit about dementia with the help of relevant books and online resources, and learn how to handle the associated behaviour in a better way.

Track the time for toilet

Ultra-Modern Red Washroom homify Modern style bathrooms
homify

Ultra-Modern Red Washroom

homify

Wandering is one of the signs of moderate dementia. At this stage, grandparents with dementia forget not only where they’ve kept their spectacles, but also things like where the bathroom is and when they last went to the toilet. You will need to start tracking their activities, and start reminding them of simple things like going to the bathroom

As the dementia progresses, you may need to assist them in the bathroom as well. Conventional commodes are not very comfortable for elderly people. Consider changing your traditional commode for a wall hung commode that can be installed at a more comfortable height. Take a hint from this smart and snug bathroom shown above.

Plan daytime activities

Dementia patients often find that they are more restless and agitated at night than during the day. To counter this, increase daytime activities for your grandparents.  For as long as they can, let them share your chores around the house, and as their capabilities decline, occupy them with simpler motor tasks. Gardening is a good exercise for elderly people and also rejuvenating. 

If you live in a gated community, go out for a walk with them in the evenings. Playing simple card games and listening to soothing music is also a good way for your grandparents to spend the evening. This light exercise during the day and calm structure through the evening will ensure that their energy is well spent, and that they get peaceful sleep at night.

Hide your keys

Noticeboard, Keys & Letters Holder Finoak LTD Corridor, hallway & stairsStorage
Finoak LTD

Noticeboard, Keys & Letters Holder

Finoak LTD

People with dementia are very forgetful. Misplacing things like remotes can be dealt with, but if your keys go missing, it can cause a major problem. To avoid such a situation, hide your keys. Instead of using a hook or a shelf by the door, keep your keys in a drawer that is below eye level. Most dementia patients do not look for things that are above or below eye level. If your grandparent insists on having his or her own set of keys, give them an old set of keys to hold onto.

Guard the entrances

Some handles are easy to operate while others pose more difficulty for grandparents with dementia. ‘C’ shaped door handles fall into the first category while knobs fall into the latter. Replace all the handles at entry and exit doors of your home with knobs that can be locked. You could also cover these with “child safe” plastic covers. The door to your grandparent’s room and the bathrooms should have ‘C’ shaped handles that are easy for them to hold on to. Your main doors should always be kept locked. As an additional security measure, consider putting an alarm on the main house doors. Configure this to your smart phone so that even when you are not at home, you know that your grandparents are safe. The sturdy and smart security door has been designed by Stronghold Security Doors, suppliers from London.

Additionally, let your grandparent wear an ID bracelet and sew identification into their clothing. Instead of hiding your situation from your neighbours, let them know about your grandparents so that they too can keep an eye on them when you are at work.  A dementia patient will rarely leave the house without things they consider essential such as a hat, glasses, purse, so keep these out of sight.

Spend quality time together

DUPLEX APARTMENT ON THE CANAL Atelier UOA Modern dining room
Atelier UOA

DUPLEX APARTMENT ON THE CANAL

Atelier UOA

The easiest way of ensuring your grandparents' safety is to be with them. Don’t allow your grandparents to feel like they are a burden on you. If they can, let them take charge of small tasks around the house or help you with the chores. Your kitchen may not have enough space for your grandparents to sit in, so, seat them at the dining table from where you can talk to them while you cook.

As the situation deteriorates, your grandparent is likely to become frustrated with the loss of control. Let them know that you understand this and empathise with their condition. Avoid trying to convince a dementia patient that they are wrong about something. Confrontation can build anxiety, and may confuse them further. To deal with a troubling incident, distract them with another activity to take their mind off the stimulant. Break tasks into simple steps that are easier to do, and find ways to assist them while maintaining their independence. 

Did you find this article useful? Find out how to make your home senior-friendly!

Have you adapted your home for a relative with dementia? Share your experience in the comments.

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