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Adapting the home

Two out of three people with dementia in the UK live in their own home. To support people to carry on living as independently as possible for as long as possible, adaptations are sometimes needed to promote safety at home.

An introduction to adapting the home for dementia care

This may include installing a stair rail to help a person safely climb the stairs, or a walk-in shower for somebody who can no longer get in and out of the bath.

An occupational therapist will visit the person in their own home to assess the need for any minor or major adaptations.

The assessment will be based on the person’s physical needs and will take into account their ability to understand the recommended changes and their ability to learn.

Each local authority works differently but will generally provide equipment up to a fixed amount, and more costly adaptations will be means-tested.

Tips for making the home easier to navigate

Here are some tips for making the home easier to navigate that you can share with the person you’re supporting and their family:

Declutter

Get rid of clutter to help people find the important things

• Move unused cutlery from kitchen drawers
• Only have seasonal clothes in wardrobes and drawers.

Minimise hazards

• People may be slower to react to hazards around the home, so ensure clutter is tidied away, cords and leads are out of the way and furniture such as low tables and chairs are easy to see
• Remove potentially harmful medicines from bathroom cabinets
• Consider covers for sockets that aren’t in frequent use. Unplug appliances where appropriate.

Use simple electronics

• Consider simple alternatives to complicated remote controls or telephones. Telephones with photographs of the person linked to the number are useful.
• Basic models are often easier to use.

Have a place for everything

• Choose a place for keys, mobile phone and glasses
• Have a notice board for important letters and hospital or hairdresser appointments
• Put a list of emergency and useful contact numbers on the notice board, for instance spouse, children, neighbour, doctor, dentist, hairdresser
• Use a wall calendar to mark dates
• Put things back in their place once you’ve used them

Use visual cues

• Keep things out in view if they’re regularly used, for instance kettle, tea/coffee, cups
• Use clear jars, to see the contents without opening

Label things around the home

• Signs on doors can help a person who is disorientated in their own home. Dementia-friendly signs are available online. Most have an image and the picture in bold font, on a block colour background
• Label cupboards too or have clear safety glass fitted (or remove doors altogether) so the person can see inside
• Write simple reminders about how to use the washing machine or make a cup of tea. This will help the person remain independent for longer.

Write it down

• Keep a shopping list and add to as needed
• Have a paper and pen by the telephone to note down messages

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