NEW YORK, NY -- As the nation's Alzheimer awareness organization insists people get professional help this month, it also offers help for families' home lives.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) wants people to know they can get a free memory screening during November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
It says almost every part of a home can affect quality of life for someone living with a dementia-related illness. It also affects their family caregivers.
AFA says quality of life improvement can come from "even seemingly-cosmetic choices such as wall colors, furniture patterns, and dishware."
"Most homes were not designed with the needs of someone living with a dementia-related illness in mind, but virtually every aspect of a home can affect the person’s quality of life," said AFA President & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. "From purchasing higher-tech appliances all the way down to labeling dresser drawers and putting up old family photos, there are a variety of adaptations family care partners can use to make their loved one’s home more dementia-friendly."
AFA today is offering steps that families can take.
It asks that care providers consider color choices and contrast as colors can be used to help with mood. "For example, blue often has a calming effect and is great to use in places that promote relaxation, such as lounge areas, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Brighter colors like red, purple and orange can be energetic and stimulating, and, therefore, may not be the best choice to use in these rooms.
Color contrast is important too—it aids with vision, depth perception and spatial orientation. Dishware that contrasts with the tablecloth color makes it easier for someone with dementia to see the food on the plate."
AFA asks caregivers to provide visual cues to people with dementia-related illness because, "Labeling is an easy, low-cost adaptation that anyone can make. For example, putting labels on dresser drawers with the name of the contents (i.e., shirts, pants, socks, etc.) and a small picture is an effective memory cueing technique."
AFA also wants family members to choose proper lighting, "Lighting obviously influences eyesight, but it can also affect the body and behavior. Blue light rays stimulate the brain, increase alertness and elevate energy levels, but also negatively impact sleep quality in the evening. Lights which produce glare may hinder vision for someone with dementia. Flickering lights can increase agitation. Utilizing glare-free lighting aids with sight, while lighting that operates with a circadian rhythm mimicking natural patterns of high blue light in the day and low blue light at night can improve sleep and reduce agitation."
It says reminiscent decorations can help when "they can promote familiarity, aid with mood and assist with memory recall. Beach/nautical-themed pictures can promote positive memories for someone who enjoys the ocean. Vintage magazines on shelves and tables can help stimulate memory and remind the person about a familiar time period from their past. Family photos reinforce the faces of cherished loved ones."
AFA also says, "Technological tools can provide additional support to care partners, especially if they aren’t in the home with the individual living with a dementia-related illness. Interactive virtual assistant technology can enable caregivers to schedule reminders and events that will be audibly played for a loved one, such as 'it’s lunchtime now' or 'time to take your medication.' Care partners can utilize app-controlled thermostats to check, program and change the temperature remotely, as well as smart smoke/carbon monoxide alarms which can be programmed with friendly human voices and be controlled/monitored via an app."
Through The Apartment—a full-scale model dementia-friendly residence—AFA shows different adaptations to make homes safer and more dementia-friendly.
AFA offers families ways to create dementia-friendly homes at The Apartment page on AFA’s website at www.alzfdn.org/theapartment. A free 20-page booklet showcases each of the rooms with detailed, step-by-step summaries of dementia-friendly improvements that can be made. People also can contact AFA’s Helpline seven days a week by phone (866-232-8484), webchat (www.alzfdn.org), or text message (646-586-5283).
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a non-profit organization to provide support, services and education to people, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide and to fund research for better treatment and a cure. Its services include a National Toll-Free Helpline (866-232-8484) staffed by licensed social workers, the National Memory Screening Program, educational conferences and materials, and AFA Partners in Care dementia care training for healthcare professionals. AFA information is available at call 866-232-8484, www.alzfdn.org, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.