Environmental Modifications for Treating Patients with Dementia

How to Apply Environmental Modifications When Treating Patients with Dementia

When treating patients with dementia, implementing environmental modifications can increase their independence at home while simultaneously improving their physical safety and mental health. Internal or external modifications to patients’ residences may also help minimize some of the psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia.

This care of people with dementia may be intimidating for many clinicians and clinical assistants, but we’re here to help you tackle it head-on. Learning how to effectively communicate with dementia patients and handle challenging behaviors will help you feel comfortable and capable—whether you’re working in an acute, sub-acute, or long-term setting.

Here are a few environmental modifications we recommend for treating patients with dementia!

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Modifications for the Kitchen

A clear, accessible kitchen layout is crucial for patients with dementia. Ensure that necessities for feeding oneself and getting water are available and that there are no hidden or obstructed appliances. Remove cabinet doors or opt for glass-front doors so that items are easy to find, or use labels and photographs on the outside of cabinets, drawers, and canisters to identify what is inside. Additionally, refrigerators with clear glass doors may make it easier for dementia patients to identify the food within and entice them to eat, especially as loss of appetite can occur in patients with dementia.

Kitchen floors should be plain (e.g., non-patterned) with non-slip qualities for added safety. Adding floor mats and tablecloths can also reduce potential glare and shadows, which can trigger confusion. Dishware and drinkware should be easy to hold, but still pleasant and comfortable to use. Assistive technology, such as temperature monitors and other safety features, can also be installed to enhance safety measures depending on the patient’s level of independence.

Modifications for the Bedroom

Painting a patient’s door a contrasting color, as well as labeling and decorating the door so that it is easy to locate, can decrease confusion. Doing so is especially important if the patient resides in a shared living space. Their bed should be visible from as many locations in the room as possible, easy for them to locate, and accessible from both sides. Ideally, the patient should also be able to see the bed from the toilet. Hospital-style beds with elevated, rounded edges are safe and convenient options for patients with dementia, as they can be raised and lowered as needed while providing physical safety.

Additionally, shelving, open cabinets, or labeled cabinets for storing clothing and other belongings can be helpful for patients, and some personalization reminding the patient they are in their own space can provide comfort. Night lights and motion-activated lights are also essential environmental modifications for dementia patients, as they may become disoriented in the dark. An analog clock that is easily visible in the room can also be reassuring.

Modifications for the Bathroom

In the bathroom, the toilet, railings, and towels should all be easy to identify. Handrails, bath seats, and non-slip grips are all crucial for patients’ safety in this space. Temperature controls, bath plugs that allow the bath to drain if it is filled too high, and flood detectors can also ensure that visiting the bathroom is a safe, comfortable experience.

It’s necessary to remove or cover mirrors in bathrooms or other spaces, as these can stir feelings of fear and anxiety in patients with dementia. Experts believe that people with dementia fear mirrors because they don’t understand that they’re witnessing a reflected image of themselves. As a result, mirrors, reflective surfaces, and areas where differences in lighting accidentally create a mirror effect can be very disorienting for patients with dementia.

Modifications for All Spaces

Throughout a patient’s home, there should be plenty of lighting. You can implement interactive, self-activating assistive technology depending on patients’ individual needs. Noise absorbing materials and appliances with low noise levels are also helpful for preventing distress, and pleasant smells and air fresheners can be comforting.

Learn More with ARC Seminars

Undoubtedly, thoughtful environmental modifications for dementia can help patients live safer, more comfortable, and more independent lives. Visit ARC Seminars today to learn how we empower clinicians to treat intimidating conditions like dementia and more! Plus, register for our self-paced seminar ‘Settled and Secure’: Managing Challenging Behaviors Associated with Dementia to access applicable techniques and skills for engaging with patients, building rapport, and fundamentally improving the way you work with clients.

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