Alzheimer’s disease changes how seniors interpret their environment. Names, places and people they know become unfamiliar, leading to disorientation, stress and isolation. But creating a positive environment, conducive to a senior’s comforts and needs, can help reinforce well-being.
It impairs not only memories, but reasoning and the ability to learn. In turn, as the Victorian Department of Health explains, Alzheimer’s makes seniors feel more anxiety and stress, become more sensitive to their physical and social environments, and rely more on their senses for cues about what is going on around them.
Essentially, if what seniors with Alzheimer’s see is familiar and routine, as opposed to chaotic and disorganized, they are more likely to enjoy life and feel like they belong.
Creating a Positive Environment for Seniors With Alzheimer’s
Seniors with Alzheimer’s should live in an environment that provides comfort, routine and social opportunities. It should be familiar and offer meaningful activities that the senior enjoys, not ones intended to just fill the time.
Most of all, the environment should feel like home.
Here are some ways residences might be equipped to help seniors with Alzheimer’s live well.
- Make rooms easy to navigate.
- Have decorations incorporate soothing colors.
- Use photos and music to relax and lift the spirit.
- Make kitchen utensils easy to locate and meals easy to prepare. An in-home caregiver can help with shopping and cooking.
- Have the temperature suit the senior’s sensitivities.
- Have a phone near the senior at all times.
- Use simple décor to minimize distractions and tripping hazards. Remove throw rugs, and install grab bars in the bathroom if necessary.
- Keep visitors coming. Friends and family can help stimulate memories and laughs.
In a memory care facility:
- Have furnishings and spaces resemble a community instead of a hospital.
- Make sure outdoor areas are easily accessible, safe and purposeful.
- Look for distinct spaces, such as an activity kitchen, art and music therapy area, or a library, a coffee shop, and family visiting area, which can help cue specific behaviors.
- Make sure residents’ rooms allow for private areas.
- Have meals served in smaller dining rooms and at smaller tables to minimize distractions and encourage conversation.
- Have caregivers provide for the senior’s familiar routine. For instance, they will know how a senior likes his or her coffee served and what time the senior likes to wake up.
- Make sure that medical support is offered discretely, and that caregiver support areas are spread throughout the building.
- Make sure residents are asked for their ideas about the design of new indoor and outdoor features.
How a Positive Environment Changes Alzheimer’s Outcomes
Although it is not a cure, offering person-centered care and a positive environment can help lift seniors with Alzheimer’s.
If they can live in a positive, dementia-friendly environment, one that supports their health, independence and safety, seniors with Alzheimer’s will experience more personal control. They are more likely to feel secure, remain active and engage in activities familiar to them, which will help them live well for as long as possible.
- 5 Ways to Heal Your Spirit After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
- The Importance of Building Dementia-Friendly Communities
- Dementia Care–What in the World is Dementia Village?