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Dementia and buildings

3-minute read

If you are caring for someone with dementia, you may need to make changes to the building where you live. It needs to be as safe as possible for someone with dementia. You can make some simple changes to help them to move and find their way around, and to prevent falls and wandering.

Inside the house

Make sure the floors aren’t slippery and try not to have too much clutter. Try to avoid loose carpets and other trip hazards. A well-lit house will also reduce falls risk.

You will need to check the safety of your locks, floors, doors, windows, stairs, verandahs and balconies, and see if they need modifying.

Think about heating, cooling, lighting, electricity and gas. Are they safe? And are they easy to use? The type of heating or cooling system can be a safety issue, especially if the person lives alone.

It’s important to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home because a person with dementia might not be able to judge the temperature themselves, or remember how to adjust their clothes if they are too hot or too cold.

You may need to put signs on taps to show which is hot and which is cold. Or you may need to install sensor lights or lights with built-in timers if the person wanders at night.

You can also install handrails on both sides of stairs, mark glass doors and windows with masking tape, change the doors to the bathroom and toilet, or change the locks on doors.

Outside the house

The outside areas of the home should ideally be a calming, relaxing and safe place for a person with dementia to walk around in. It's good if this also triggers happy memories.

You may need to fix and lock gates. You may even need to put up fences, although do this carefully since a new fence can make a person with dementia feel trapped.

You may also need to remove obstacles from paths, hide garbage or compost bins, remove poisonous or spiky plants, and lock away any dangerous chemicals in the garden shed or garage, if there is one.

Many people with time on their hands like gardening and watering. You could think about putting in a raised garden bed for the person with dementia to plant out and tend to. You can put timers on hoses so they can water the garden and not worry about remembering to turn the tap off when they are finished.

Moving or renovating

You may decide to move to a new home or to renovate your existing home. This happens in people’s lives, whether they are involved with someone with dementia or not.

Before you decide on a new house or renovation design, you may like to consider an adaptable housing design. There are guidelines about features that can enhance access, mobility and safety — see Australian Standard: Adaptable Housing (AS 4299-1995). This standard supports caring for someone with later-stage dementia when their mobility deteriorates and they need more personal care.

More information

You can find out more by reading the Dementia Australia help sheet about safety issues.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2018

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