Many people are familiar with the concept of “child-proofing” a house. When a baby is on the way, the parents-to-be will go through their home to try to make it as baby-safe as possible. That means doing things like putting inserts into electrical outlets, moving breakable items out of reach of curious toddler hands, and locking cabinets or drawers that contain cleaning supplies, sharp items, or other things that little kids shouldn’t touch.
Now, many Americans are putting the same concepts into play in another context: caring for elderly parents or spouses that are dealing with dementia. The goal is to design and decorate your home in a way that is as safe, helpful, calming, and supportive as possible.
For example, experts in the field note that people with Alzheimer’s often experience anxiety, so decorating in soothing colors, like shades of blue, can help. Because forgetfulness and confusion are symptoms, labeling things like dresser drawers to identify the contents can help the individual feel more self-sufficient. And safety devices, like smoke alarms that can detect when a stovetop burner has been left on by a forgetful senior, are a must.
Vision and spatial orientation issues also can be a problem, so creating color contrasts will allow the person to, say, find the handle to a cabinet more quickly. Picking out plates that make it easier for a vision-challenged person to see the food is useful, too. Other ideas include adopting lighting the helps with alertness during the day and calmness at night and putting out family photos that might trigger happy memories. There also are products that use spoken-word technology designed to help people who are struggling to read.
Caring for someone who is experiencing the early ages of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can be exhausting and emotionally challenging. Anything you can do to make what is inevitably a difficult process a bit easier, for both the afflicted and the caregiver, is bound to help.