When a senior has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, they may become confused, agitated or upset much easier than before. They will likely feel uncomfortable, stressed out and overwhelmed with all of the changes they are facing. Unfortunately, for caregivers, this can increase the likelihood they will suffer from caregiver burnout and stress, which can often make their loved one’s symptoms worse, as they pick up on emotions fairly easily. When this occurs, it can often help to take a step back and really think about how you can improve your loved one’s symptoms, your mindset and the environment to help both you and your loved one with dementia.
While there may not be too much you can do to ease your loved one’s symptoms, creating a positive environment where they can thrive and feel safe and comfortable can help tremendously. Consider how you would feel if you were unable to recognize familiar people, remember your past or differentiate items that you are surrounded by. Chances are, you’d react in the same way. Put yourself in their shoes and contemplate ways to make their environment more calm, relaxing and dementia-friendly.
5 Simple Ways to Create a Positive Environment for Seniors with Dementia
When many caregivers think about changing up the environment, they may be concerned about two things. First, how their loved one will react if the things around them change further; and second, how much it will cost to change these things. The good news is this: changing the environment doesn’t always mean spending money, and when it does, it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot. Consider some of these easy-to-implement ways to make your loved one with dementia’s environment more positive.
- Start a routine. Sometimes, your loved one may act out or become stressed because there are variations in their day-to-day lives. A routine may help to get them in the rhythm of what is done each day and when. While this may not be one hundred percent effective, it can help to maintain a sense of comfort and normalcy.
- Take a break and change your mindset. If arguments or disagreements are becoming heated between you and your loved one with dementia, it’s important to take a few deep breaths and take a break. Those with dementia can’t possibly be calm and relaxed or have a positive environment if you are both in poor moods. Step away and learn to let some things go. It’s also a helpful tip to remember to not correct them. Instead, suggesting they do something differently politely and nicely can help them remain calm and reduce the amount of arguments and fights that corrections can trigger.
- Make the home easier to navigate. Is there lots of clutter or lack of space? If the environment is overstimulating, it can cause your loved one with dementia to become distracted and overwhelmed. Clean up any clutter and move furniture to create a more open and simplified plan where your loved one won’t run into everything to see if that helps improve their symptoms and mood.
- Try switching the lighting. Shadows, especially in the evening or at night, can scare your loved one and make it hard for them to sleep. Consider if this may be a reason they are more agitated at night, as sundowning is a common symptom of dementia. Try to find lighting that reduces the amount of shadows so your loved one can rest easier, and provide them with comfort items like a beloved blanket.
- Watch for excessive noise and find ways to decrease it. Does your loved one’s phone ring often? Is there often music playing or does the television remain on? Do you find yourself talking over these things? Just like the home having too much clutter, extra noise can cause your loved one to become overstimulated. When this occurs, they may be prone to hiding, acting out or wandering. Decreasing the amount of background noise can help to settle them and decrease their stress, making the environment more calm and positive.
For more information on ways to make your loved one’s environment more relaxing and calming, talk to the team at CountryHouse. Most CountryHouse communities offer Caregiver Connections, a regular support group just for family members and caregivers of those with dementia. In these support groups, we’ll share information, offer support and guidance and often will hear from guest speakers that present on a variety of topics. To inquire if your closest CountryHouse offers this program, contact us!