How to make a bedroom dementia friendly
The bedroom is one of the most important rooms in the home, the place where you can go to relax and recover from the stresses of the day. It needs to feel safe. This is even more so for a person with dementia, who is more likely to face struggles and upsets in their everyday activities and who may have complex needs.
People with dementia may experience disrupted sleep patterns and struggle to relax at night. They need to establish a routine before bed and avoid potential stressors such as loud noises or bright lights. Excessive temperatures, either hot or cold, can also cause discomfort. Avoid alcohol or caffeine too late in the day and make sure there is plenty of opportunity for activity - both physically and mentally - during the daytime hours to ensure they are ready to relax at the right time. Once all that is done, you need to make sure the bedroom itself will be suitable for them.
Any bedroom design needs to incorporate safety features to account for the symptoms of dementia, which can include memory loss and perception issues as well as an increase in confusion and agitation as responses to what may seem like mundane things. These sit alongside many of the common side effects of ageing, including poor vision and mobility problems. A dementia-friendly bedroom should be easy to navigate and reduce the risks of accidents for people suffering these symptoms (bearing in mind that every person with dementia has slightly different requirements), whilst also being a relaxing environment where they can rest comfortably.
Colours are always one of the most important parts of designing a dementia friendly environment, including the bedroom. People with dementia often experience problems with vision and perception, partially because of dementia and partly because of the natural effects of ageing. The use of contrasting colours for walls, floor, and different furniture items ensures that edges are clearly defined. On the other hand, patterns can cause distress and confusion and should be avoided. As the bedroom should be a calm and relaxing place, colours should not be too garish. Remember to account for the person's individual preferences.
People with dementia can often be unsteady on their feet, so non-slip flooring can be helpful even outside of obvious areas such as the bedroom and kitchen. Vinyl is also easier to keep clean than carpet and will not hold smells. Try to ensure that any flooring is in plain, matte colours. Patterns or shiny surfaces can be sources of confusion. The person with dementia may try to pick up non-existent objects or step around non-existent puddles, increasing the risk of falling.
As with all furniture, the bed needs to be clearly defined. Use bedlinen that contrasts with the floor and walls. Place the bed on a direct line to the door and bathroom with a clear path between them. This will make it easy to travel from one to the other. Padded headboards can be safer. Although placing the bed against the wall may reduce the risk of falls, it is better to leave it clear on both sides to ensure its accessibility.
Wardrobes and drawers can either be left partially open or made with transparent fronts to quickly and easily identify their contents. Alternatively, bright, bold labels with pictures can also help the person with dementia navigate and avoid a potential source of agitation and confusion.
When it comes to chairs, padded upholstery and rounded edges are safer and more comfortable. Again, contrasting colours should be utilised to make the seat clearly defined. All furniture should be a different colour to the walls and floor and should not block the route to the exit or bathroom.
As well as simple things such as ensuring any obstacles and trip hazards are removed from the floor, there are several other steps you can take to make a bedroom safer for someone with dementia. For example, electric blankets or hot water bottles can be dangerous, particularly older models. Electric blankets should be discarded after ten years. Sometimes more senior people, especially those with dementia, are slower to realise that something is hot and therefore may be at increased risk of burns from these items.
The bedroom should be a place of comfort, so small and personal items can make it feel much more homely. These could include photographs, cushions and blankets, a bottle of perfume or even a hairbrush. People with dementia tend to prefer familiar settings, so more traditional décor, in general, may be perceived as more comforting. They may find modern designs and technology confusing or disorientating.
Motion sensors may be a good way to ensure the person has adequate lighting if they get up in the night, without disturbing them whilst they are asleep. It is also more energy-efficient and prevents potential confusion if they have to try and find a light switch. Any lights should be situated to minimise shadows and glare, both of which can cause distress to someone with dementia. If lights are too bright, they may be uncomfortable for the person.
If the person wakes in the night needing the toilet, they need a clear and easy route to the bathroom, especially immediately after waking when any disorientation may be magnified. That means lighting, labelling and no physical obstructions on the path. In some cases, a commode may be an appropriate alternative to the toilet, but this requires the person to be willing and able to use it. Toileting is an extremely important consideration for people living with dementia.
Mirrors can often be a source of distress and confusion for people with dementia, as they may not recognise their own reflection. If this is the case, either remove mirrors or cover them with a cloth. Fold-away mirrors are available. You may also want to use curtains or blinds to ensure windows do not become too reflective after dark.
Doors are another factor to consider in making a bedroom easier to navigate. A person with dementia may be confused when confronted with multiple doors, especially in the middle of the night. As well as ensuring the door is painted to contrast to the walls and floor, clear labelling (with pictures) can also help. Wardrobe doors can be left slightly ajar, so it is clear they contain clothes.
What should be in a dementia patient's room?
Motion sensors or bed sensors can serve two purposes. As well as being used to activate lighting when someone gets up in the night, another advantage is that they can alert other people in the house, such as family members or care staff, that the person is out of bed and may need help.
It is very easy for a person with dementia to become disorientated with regards to time. A clearly lit clock directly in their field of view can be helpful both day and night. Sometimes they will be more comfortable with an analogue option, as a more modern digital clock may be confusing. Either way, ensure the hands or display are large and easy to see even in the dark or if they have poor eyesight. Talking clocks are available that can simply announce the time, removing any concerns about vision. Just ensure the time is always correctly set.
Dealing with incontinence
Sometimes people with dementia can also experience incontinence, which can be a source of embarrassment and frustration for all involved. The impact of incontinence can be reduced by fitting waterproof protectors to the mattress and duvet. You may also want to provide them with incontinence pads or absorbent underwear.
Bedrails are considered a form of restraint and should therefore only be used when absolutely necessary. You can, however, find beds with slightly raised edges where the risk of falling out is reduced. Rounded edges are also safer. Another way to improve safety is to use a hospital-style bed that can be raised and lowered to the most convenient level, making efforts to climb in and out much easier. Mattress elevators are available to help raise someone with mobility issues from lying to a seated position.
Getting ready for the morning
Getting ready in the morning presents several challenges for the person with dementia, from choosing the right clothes to navigating items such as buttons, zips and laces. Mobility issues can also cause trouble, particularly for items such as socks and shoes where you need to bend down.
You can make this process easier by choosing clothes the night before and laying them out in advance. Numbering can be used to make the order of dressing clear. This prevents frustration when the person is confronted with too many clothing decisions that they may struggle to make.
There are clothes specifically designed for people with dementia, which may include Velcro fasteners instead of buttons, zip pulls that can be attached to zips to make them easier to manipulate, elastic waistbands so trousers can be pulled on easily and clip-on ties as an easier, safer way to look smart. Clothing should respect the dignity of the person as well as being comfortable and easy to wear.
Catalyst Interiors are not just experts in designing safe, secure environments for people with dementia, but ensuring those environments are also comfortable and stylish. Our many years of experience prove that the practicalities of creating a dementia-friendly bedroom do not mean you have to abandon aesthetic considerations. We can help you ensure that any person with dementia has a luxurious bedroom ideally suited to their needs, supporting their physical, mental and emotional well-being.