Living room

This Help Sheet suggests some ways to make the living room as useful and safe as possible for a person with dementia, their family and carers. Not all suggestions will suit all people or situations, but some people may find a solution to a particular problem they are experiencing in the living room.

If modifying the living room becomes necessary, try to keep the room as familiar as possible. The whole aim is to simplify the living room so that the person with dementia can maintain their skills and use the room safely. Ideally it will be possible to maintain a familiar environment that will trigger memories for the person with dementia.

Checklist
Regularly check to see if any of the following present a barrier to independence or safety in the living room:-

• Furniture edges
• Loose floor coverings or rugs
• Layout of living room
• Cupboards and the way they are organised
• Lighting and glare
• Power points and electrical leads

Furniture edges
Judging the edge of a table, chair or bench can be a problem and cause bumps, spills and breakages. Sharp corners and edges on furniture which could cause damage should be removed, or smooth the edges by sanding or pad edges by attaching sponge rubber or corner buffers.

Loose floor coverings and rugs
Make sure that the edges of carpet mats are tacked down and that rugs are secured so that a person with dementia will not trip. If necessary, remove rugs altogether.

Layout of living room
It is important to reduce clutter and remove any obstacles that may be in the way, especially in walkways. Many people with dementia find low coffee tables difficult to recognise and these may need to be removed.

Cupboards
• Label cupboards if it helps a person with dementia to find and replace things.

• Gradually clear out the cupboards and reduce the number of each type of item, keeping just a few of the most commonly used things. If the person with dementia can no longer use the cupboards, try putting the most commonly used items on a bench or an open shelf, or even take the doors off a couple of cupboards to create open shelving for better visibility and identification.

• Remove sharp objects such as tools for an open fire, letter openers and scissors that could cause harm to the person.

• Lock some cupboards and drawers, if necessary, using latches or key locks. Locks that are very visible may offend the person's dignity or cause frustration. Place commonly used items within easy reach to discourage climbing up to high cupboards. If rummaging in drawers and rearranging cupboards is a problem, put most things in a locked cupboard and if necessary cover open shelving with doors or curtains. Provide easy access to some cupboards and drawers full of safe non-essential items for rummaging.

Lighting
Adequate lighting in the living room will help in identifying objects and promote safe movement. People with dementia often need brighter lighting as even familiar objects will appear unfamiliar if the lighting is too dim.

Power points and electrical leads
You may wish to consider installing power point safety covers and check that power points are not overloaded with double adaptors. Secure electrical cords to skirting boards so they can't be tripped over.

Remember
If possible, display photos, ornaments and other memorabilia that trigger memories. Try showing old photos of the childhood of the person with dementia. At the same time photos of the person at recent events and with friends and relatives could be used to reinforce their sense of identity and recent memory.

Did you know?

Unpaid carers supporting someone with dementia save the UK economy £6 billion a year.