It is hard to imagine what a loved one with dementia is experiencing at any time. Yes, there are simulations that provide a realistic view of what life with dementia is like, but no simulation goes 24/7, 365 days a year. As a caretaker, you strive to do the most you can for your loved one. In this case, we hope that by assisting our loved ones in all aspects of their life, the progression and impact of the disease will lessen. In most cases this extra exertion of care will cause more of a strain than strengthening of the relationship. The most important quality to have when a loved one has dementia is adaptability. Dementia, like most diseases impacts each individual differently.
When your loved one moves to a residential care facility, it is often tempting to provide them with all the options for them to choose from. However, all these options can cause your loved one to feel overwhelmed. The key is to provide them with the materials and surroundings that would be the most meaningful for them.
While it can be beneficial to have mementos of one’s past to help remind them of past memories, there is a fine line between helpful and overwhelming. As one’s ability to remember begins to deteriorate, having too much clutter can cause a “sensory overload”. People affected by dementia often have a harder time filtering out non-relevant stimuli. By having a cluttered environment, it is harder for your loved one to make sense of their surroundings and as a result confuse them. By surrounding your loved one with key aspects of their past, you reduce the chances of a cognitive overload. When deciding what to keep in your loved one’s room a key question to ask yourself is, “Does this add or detract clarity from the room?” For optimal room recognition, a less, but more specific room will provide you with the best results.
However, in an attempt to provide a decluttered environment, many people believe that means a very simplistic area. This can cause the environment to look more institutionalized, and less “homey.” When designing the environment, pick items that have significance to their past.
In general, as we age, our ability to distinguish different colors decreases. Specifically, people with dementia tend to have complex visual difficulties, which makes it harder for your loved one to logically understand what they are looking at. This can cause your loved one to have decreased depth perception and vision may be blurry when objects are moving sometimes making familiar object unrecognizable. By placing highly saturated colored materials in front of your loved ones you will make it easier for them to visually see/understand the object, but also the vibrancy will create a better sense of understanding of the environment. The color of the materials should work in conjunction with the objects chosen to represent their memories. The structure and layout of your loved one’s room will provide the best environment to help foster a comfortable and enjoyable quality of life.
Rather than forcing your reality on to your loved one, take a step into their reality. Perhaps, you will find that by immersing yourself into their world, you have strengthened the quality of your relationship.