At home with dementia: making changes to your living environment to combat visual challenges
People living with dementia face many challenges, but some lesser-known symptoms can be caused by changes in vision. Particular problems can arise from distorted perceptions of contrast and depth.
Here are three areas in which you might notice changes.
1. Avoid patterns
Bold or prominent patterns in décor, furnishings and floors can often cause confusion. For example, a carpet with a busy pattern might lead people to think there is litter or bits of tissue on the floor.
A chequerboard patterned carpet can often trick people into thinking the surface is uneven. This may reduce their confidence when walking across it, which can cause trips. This is also sometimes seen in wood flooring with a very prominent grain.
Stripes and zig-zag patterns are also problematic. They can create optical illusions for people living with dementia, with sufferers sometimes perceiving the items to be moving.
2. Pay attention to colour-contrast
Another change that people living with dementia may experience is a lowered sensitivity to colour contrast. Items or spaces that have similar colours may blend into one, which can lead to disorientation. For example, if you have beige carpet and white walls, the person may find it difficult to pinpoint where the walls stop and the floors finish. The only real way to combat this is to increase the contrast, so for example, painting the walls a brighter, more vivid colour.
However, there are instances in which extreme contrast can also cause problems. For example, if you have a black doormat on a light-coloured garden path, a person living with dementia may see it as a hole in the ground. This can happen indoors, too, say if you have a dark-coloured rug on a light-coloured floor.
3. Focus on light and shadows
Shiny floors can also be a trip hazard. If they reflect lots of light they can appear wet and slippery. In a similar way to patterned floors, this can affect a person’s confidence and therefore their ability to cross it safely.
Mirrors can sometimes be scary for people with advanced dementia, as they may not always recognise their own reflections.
Shadows can also cause dementia sufferers distress, so try to let as much as much natural light in as possible during the day. After dark, use artificial light strategically to illuminate the whole area. When it’s time for bed, ensure the room is totally dark.
The Alzheimer’s Society have some excellent advice on how to make your home dementia friendly. View one of their guides here.
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