Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease means making some significant changes around the house and in your daily schedule. Symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and difficulty learning new things mean that someone with dementia may forget where they are, what they need to do next, or how things work. This can make daily living more challenging, leaving caregivers wishing they had more useful tools and hacks to make their loved one’s living environment more dementia-friendly.
Although it’s not advisable to make major changes to the home overnight, a few simple modifications to everyday objects and some strategic preparation for each day’s routine will help create a safe and reassuring environment for the person in your care while saving you loads of stress.
Here are 14 super useful items and hacks for the home that’ll make your life as a caregiver a whole lot easier and offer you peace of mind, helping you focus on making the most of each moment with your loved one:
1. Games and craft supplies
Games and crafts can make your loved one feel connected and engaged. Plus, participating in mentally stimulating activities has been found to help preserve memory and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Here’s a list of games and craft supplies you might keep on hand:
- Large-print playing cards for simple games like blackjack and Go Fish
- Non-toxic markers, paints, and clay
- Coloring books
- Large-piece jigsaw puzzles
2. Calendars and whiteboards
Confusion can create a lot of anxiety for a person with Alzheimer’s disease — so stick a large-print calendar in an easy-to-see place, and write down any appointments, social visits, and other scheduled activities on each day’s square. You may also want to use a colorful magnet or sticker to mark today’s date.
Each day, write upcoming activities and comforting reminders on a whiteboard to reassure your loved one about what’s done and what’s next.
3. Labels, signs, and sticky notes
Little reminders around the house can also prevent a lot of confusion. If your loved one has trouble remembering where to find certain items, mark those drawers, closets, and cabinets with large-print labels.
Sticky notes can also help remind them of daily tasks, like brushing their teeth, washing their hands, and turning off lights, if they’re able to perform these activities independently.
As your loved one’s verbal memory fades, simple picture labels can work just as well as words. For example, you can place photos on drawers and cupboards to show what’s inside them.
4. Visual barriers
Wandering can be an issue for some people with Alzheimer’s, who may try to unlock doors and get out of the house for various reasons. Childproof locks and keypads can prevent these unsafe escapes — but an even simpler solution is to place visual barriers on and around exits. Many caregivers find that brightly colored “danger” labels and “stop” signs are highly effective. Sometimes, a big black “X” made of electrical tape can work just as well.
5. Foam padding on doors
Doors between rooms can also become safety hazards. To protect your loved one from accidentally slamming or pinching a finger — or, worse, locking themselves in a room you can’t access — use this brilliant little trick: chop a foot-long chunk off a foam pool noodle, cut a vertical slice along its side, then push the noodle onto the door’s outer edge.
6. Colorful plates and easy-grip utensils
Mealtime can be challenging for people who have trouble handling silverware. Coordination issues, hand tremors, or confusion caused by dementia can make holding utensils or getting food into the mouth nearly impossible. Increased visual impairment can make it hard to distinguish food from the plate it’s on or other items on the table.
Get special utensils and tableware that allow your loved one to eat independently. This might make mealtime easier and more enjoyable, encouraging them to eat more.
7. Tennis balls and washcloths for pen grips
To make it easier for your loved one to write, paint and sign their name, drill a hole in a tennis ball, then run a pen or paintbrush through the opening. If you don’t have any tennis balls handy, wrap a rag or washcloth tightly around the pen, and hold it in place with a rubber band. These homemade grips cost practically nothing and will make writing and drawing much more comfortable for your loved one.
8. Yarn for easier zippers
Clothing with zippers and buttons can be particularly difficult as your loved one loses dexterity. You can run loops of yarn or string through zippers, making them easier to grip. A button hook can also be handy for button-up shirts — though some caregivers prefer to keep things simple and opt for velcro and drawstring clothes instead.
9. Stress balls and fidget toys
Sitting still can be tough for your loved one — especially after sundown when many people with Alzheimer’s disease become anxious and restless. To soothe the stress of bathtime, bedtime, and any other downtime, it’ll help to keep something on hand to occupy their hands. Squishy stress balls are perfect, while a piece of rope or fabric can often work just as well. Some caregivers even swear by the benefits of fidget spinners!
10. Clocks with large LCD displays
For people living with memory loss or dementia, it can become harder to distinguish sunrise from sunset or identify the time of day, or even remember the day of the week and date. Place large numbered clocks throughout the house or even in their room that displays the time, day of the week, and date clearly.
11. Telephones with big buttons and simple functions
Cell phones and house phones with easy-to-read, large numbers are most helpful for people with dementia. Get one with simple, easy-to-understand functions and place it close to their bed and/or common seating areas. Ensure it has access to power and, if it’s wireless, a charging station with reminders to plug it in daily.
An SOS or emergency function is beneficial in the event of an emergency like a fall or a fire. On cell phones, emergency functions can also help track your loved one in case they wander off.
12. Monitoring devices
If you’re worried about your loved one wandering, home monitoring devices can help keep them safe and give caregivers peace of mind. Consider installing a home video device that provides continuous real-time footage of your loved one. Some devices have motion-sensing technology, which can alert you if they leave the home or a certain area.
13. Non-slip rugs and carpet grippers
Slippery floors, overturned rugs, and uneven flooring are some of the biggest culprits that cause trips and falls. Certain types of flooring can be especially hazardous; carpets and rugs with patterns can be confused with other objects on the floor, while shiny hardwood surfaces may look wet and slippery.
Get plain rugs that contrast the floors and walls and firmly secure them with sticky-gripped backing. Avoid colors like blue and green, which can be confused for grass or water, and other dark colors that may look like holes in the ground. Use textured strips or nonskid wax on hardwood and tile floors to prevent slipping. Put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape.
To further prevent falls, install safety rails throughout hallways and along stairways.
14. Night lights and automatic lights
Bad lighting is another culprit of falls. Plus, dark rooms and shadows can confuse and scare people with dementia. Make sure all rooms, walkways, and stairways are well-lit. Put a nightlight in every room and hallway, then cover any unused electrical outlets with childproof plugs. You may even consider installing motion-sensored lights and automatic timers on lamps.
These are just a few simple, affordable ways to create a safer and more supportive home environment for someone with dementia. To double down on home safety, use this complete checklist to help you safeguard each area of your loved one’s home.