Dear Interior Designer can you design the perfect home for me – I have Dementia?

Over 750,000 people in the UK suffer from Dementia and that figure is estimated to rocket to 1.5 million by 2051. The majority of people who are diagnosed with this horrific disease are over the age of 65, but there are around 16,000 under the age of 65 who have also developed Dementia.

This is ofcourse not taking into account friends and family who are left with the devasting effects of the disease, many of which struggle to cope with their loved ones changing behaviour.

Simple tasks like going to the toilet, cooking, cleaning and walking down the stairs can become a huge problem for Dementia sufferers and the place they call home is no longer a safe haven. As a result, we need to be more aware of how to create a safe and homely environment for a sufferers that will meet their every need. One problem… in the UK there are no formal courses where people can train and gain qualifications for designing for Dementia, in comparison to the US who have already pulled their finger out and got a head start.

Alesha Churba from Idaho, USA,  is a Certified Aging Place Specialist (CAPS) and Interior Designer,  she has a wealth of knowledge in this field and helps others to understand the importance of knowing how to design for people who have specific needs, like Dementia. The Design Hub are delighted to have Alesha share her expertise with us and we know you will too.

“Dementia is a brain disorder that causes behavioural changes and changes in mental cognition for those living with the disease.  There are some home modifications that can be put into place to help caretakers assist those afflicted with the disease.  Following are some ideas that may help.  They are by no means the only ideas and not all of these ideas will apply to all situations. 

Those living with dementia, a debilitating disease that includes the more readily recognized term Alzheimer’s Disease, tend to lose the ability to remember names, arrange thoughts coherently and forget their current surroundings.  As the disease progresses, communication becomes more difficult for the sufferer.

Creating a home that is safe and comfortable for both caretaker and individual is very important.  Low maintenance should also be high on the list of recommended decisions so that the caretaker does not get overwhelmed and if accidents occur, it can be cleaned up quickly and with minor effort.

Individuals with dementia tend to wander.  There are several reasons for this and more information can be obtained from many valuable resources both online and with the healthcare provider.  Some ways to deal with the wandering include keeping the home quiet and keeping background noise to a minimum.  Installing child proof locks and latches high on doors may help deter wondering to unsafe areas.  Keeping keys out of sight is also recommended. Posting signs on the doors like bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom can help with orientation. 

Long term memory is not affected to the extent of short term memory in those that suffer from the disease.  Keep familiar items where they can be seen can help the individual feel safer and less agitated. 

Night time and sun downing (when the person becomes increasingly agitated as evening advances) can be hard for both the caretaker and the person with dementia. There are some sleeping arrangements that can be done to possibly help reduce the agitation.  Make sure that the person’s bedroom is cool, conducive to sleep and comfortable.  Also make sure the bedding and pajamas are very comfortable and do not restrict movement.  Include a nightlight in the space but not one that is overly bright as it could inhibit the natural sleep process. 

Adequate night-time lighting is important so that if wandering does occur, it will not be hazardous.  Make sure that all cords are out of the way, there are no obstacles lurking and the wanderer can easily find the bathroom and the way back to their room.  Do not forget to make sure the person receives enough sunlight during the day. “

If you want to know more information about designing for Dementia you visit Alesha’s blog, Simple and Devine Interior Design, her Facebook page and her Twitter.

Information about Dementia for this article came from several sources including the Lewy Body Dementia Association (http://lbda.org/) and National Association of Home Builders Certified Aging in Place Specialist materials.

Images – Alesha Churba, Sepholic Media

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Filed under Bathroom Interiors, Bedroom Interiors, Education, help & support, Kitchen Interiors, Living room Interiors

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