By Rachel Coleman
Dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK. For the families who support them, it can sometimes be hard to know the best way to help. It’s only natural that you’ll want to help your family member or friend, but knowing where to start can be difficult.
Making some simple additions or changes around the home can help to make it a place that
is both comfortable and familiar. Let’s take a look at some ideas for making a home
Triggering fond memories
A living room is normally the place for conversations and spending time with others. For
individuals living with dementia, it can also be the place where they can recall earlier
memories. You can help them remember those special times by placing personal objects
and photographs around the room.
Jayne Vale is a lead dementia expert with Helping Hands Home Care. Having supported her
own grandfather, who lived with Alzheimer’s, Jayne later worked as a carer and studied
dementia extensively to fully understand the condition and how to provide the right level of
care. Today, she educates carers about supporting someone affected by the condition.
“Memory loss is one of the most common signs of dementia,” Jayne shares. “And it’s really
upsetting for a family member to see their loved one forgetting the things they used to love.
“Many people affected by dementia can recall their childhood home perfectly, so by adding
old photos and personal objects, families can actually start to have a conversation with their
loved one and help them remember significant events in their lives.”
Choosing the right colour scheme
Dementia can affect a person’s sense of perception. The colour blue on a carpet or rug, for
example, can give the sensation of walking on water. A black rug can instigate a feeling of
black hole in the ground. Either of them can be incredibly distressing for a person with
Your loved one may also become disorientated by strong patterns on carpets, wallpaper or
furniture. If you’re finding that a room is causing particular stress, consider whether it could
be the fittings and furnishings and consider replacing patterned carpets, painting over
patterned walls and covering loud sofa designs with a plain throw or blanket.
“Many people don’t realise that dementia can have a serious effect on vision and balance,”
Jayne says. “Even going up the stairs can be a challenge, particularly if the bottom stair is
the same colour as the floor. You can put down tape or a doormat at the bottom step to
show your loved one where the stairs start and the floor finishes.”
Making mealtimes enjoyable
You may be finding that mealtimes have become a challenge. If you’re struggling to
encourage your loved one to eat their food at the right times or follow a healthy diet, there
are a few simple steps to follow.
Involving your loved one in the cooking can give them a sense of control and independence,
as well as giving you both something to talk about and engage with. It also helps your loved
one to feel included in something that they may feel they should be doing themselves.
As with fittings and furnishings, also use bold, plain colours for plates and bowls. Separate
different food types so that your loved one can clearly see what they are, and make small
portions where possible. This will encourage your loved one to eat everything on their plate
without feeling overwhelmed by how much there is.
“Diet is really important for someone with dementia,” Jayne shares. “They can sometimes
get a bitter taste in their mouth so try and encourage them to eat sweeter foods to give a
much more pleasant meal. Try and stay away from foods such as curry and let your loved
one eat at their own pace – rushing them can make them feel upset.”
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging at times, and some families are left
feeling bewildered and stressed by the changes in a loved one’s behaviour. But there is
always a cause to a behaviour. By having the knowledge as to why someone is reacting in
the way they do, we can alter the environment or our actions to enable them to live more
happy and independent lives.