Alzheimer’s and Dementia are a growing concern for social workers in the United Kingdom. There is an increasingly large portion of the population who are displaying signs and symptoms of these degenerative conditions. It is becoming harder to provide every client with the resources that they need, especially when we consider that many clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia are still physically capable of living independently.
At present, the social care industry is keen to promote the idea of “living well with dementia”. This strategy encourages people to maintain their independence whilst they are still able to. Whilst this strategy helps to free up resources for those who are unable to continue to live independently, it is also believed to be in the best interest of the client. Deprivation of liberties should only be used to prevent harm to self or others.
Leading dementia charities in the United Kingdom seek to promote simple and cost-effective steps to social workers, to help them to support clients with dementia. The steps which are given also steps which clients’ friends and family members should be able to understand and follow too.
Changing the decor
As well as affecting the way that we remember things, dementia can also affect the ability to perceive and process new information. Bright and busy patterns can be confusing to the brain, especially in older dementia sufferers who struggle to see clearly. It can be especially difficult when the home is full of conflicting patterns, such as a patterned sofa in front of a patterned wall on a patterned carpet. On the other hand, strong block colours are easy to see and identify. This can also help to reduce fall risks. Having a large number of mirrors or reflective surfaces in the house can also create confusion. Discuss making subtle changes to the decorations in your client’s home. Local charities may be able to provide assistance with the decorating.
Clutter free homes
An untidy home can be confusing and distracting for a dementia patient. It can also make it very difficult to find important things when they are needed. There are plenty of dementia-friendly storage solutions which can make it easier to tidy things away and find them again when needed. Simple signs on the boxes, containers or cupboards can help the client to know what is inside the cupboard and will help them to recognise where to store items when it is time to put them away again.
Pictorial signs can be helpful for clients who have developed language recall issues. It is worth noting that the TV and radio can both cause “mental clutter”. Moving one of these devices so that it is not in the same room as the other can help to prevent them from both used at the same time and creating noise confusion. Setting a timer on the television can also help to prevent it from being left on overnight.
Mobility aids and fall reduction strategies
Dementia can cause balance, mobility and depth perception problems for clients. Make simple changes in the house to reduce trip hazards which may be missed.
A cable tidy can help to keep wires tucked out of the way, so that the client is less likely to fall. Loose rugs or mats may also become trip hazards. Assess the thresholds of the doorways in the home to see whether these pose a risk to the client. Some doorways have a slightly raised threshold which a Zimmer frame or walker can easily get caught on. Simple tools are available to make these thresholds easier to cross.
Additional mobility aids such as grab rails, mopstick rails and handles can help clients to move around their home more easily.
Ensure that there is plenty of light in the client’s home, as this will help to improve their vision and perception abilities. Higher watt lightbulbs produce a brighter light which will allow the client to see more clearly and make better sense of their surroundings. Make sure that there is nothing blocking the natural light which is coming through windows. Check that the curtains are easy to open and close, so that the client can use them appropriately. Curtain ties may also help to maximise the light in the room.
Keep dangerous items out of reach
Harmful chemicals should be locked away and kept in an area which is a long way away from the kitchen. Keeping strong cleaning products in the kitchen area may mean that the client is more likely to mistake them for a food or drink. Keeping these chemicals in a closed location will also make it much safer for friends and relatives to come to visit with their young children. Having young visitors can have a really therapeutic effect for clients who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.