Most people with dementia wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but as a person’s dementia progresses they may find everyday tasks more difficult. These can range from using the stairs to taking medication. Using equipment and making adaptations to the home environment can help someone to continue to do things for themselves for longer. This can help the person with dementia to stay independent, and can offer family and carers the reassurance of the person’s safety and security.
Everyone with dementia experiences the condition differently. What may be useful for one person may not be appropriate for another. The needs of each person will also change as their dementia progresses. Not everything included in this page will be of use to everyone, but it can help to know what is available.
Keep in mind that equipment will not be the answer to every problem. You might find that changing the way you do something is enough and works for you and the person with dementia. For example, someone who has trouble sitting in the bath may find it easier to have a shower in a standing position. It is also important to recognise that a piece of equipment may help the person to be safer and more independent, but it is not a guarantee of their safety.
Difficulty remembering things
There are a range of different types of memory aids for helping people to remember the date, appointments, shopping lists and other things. These include noticeboards where people can write messages and reminders, and clocks with large faces that are easier to read. (For more high-tech solutions, page: Assistive technology – devices to help with everyday living.)
Dementia may cause someone to forget when to take medication. Equipment such as dosette boxes – boxes with a pill compartment for each day of the week – can help. Dosette boxes are more suitable for people in the earlier stages of dementia because the person needs to know what day of the week it is. Automatic pill dispensers, which are electronic and pre-programmable, may be more suitable for those with more advanced memory difficulties.
Difficulty washing and bathing
Some people may have difficulty getting into and out of baths, or problems sitting down or standing up from the bottom of the bath tub. Transfer benches, grab rails or bath steps may be useful in this situation. There are also various hoists available which use pulleys to lower and raise a person into and out of a bath. If adapting an existing bath is not suitable, a walk-in bath can also be fitted. Bath seats and bath boards (which lie across the top of the bathtub, allowing a person to sit) can help someone to wash inside the bath tub.
Toilet problems and continence
Many people find that a raised toilet seat and grab rails make the toilet more accessible. Some people with dementia may lose continence, which can be distressing and embarrassing. Equipment such as commodes, bedpans, and waterproof mattresses and pillows can help people to manage incontinence. Pads and pull-up incontinence pants are also widely used. For more on incontinence aids see page: Managing toilet problems and incontinence.
Difficulties eating and drinking
Dementia may affect a person’s co-ordination or swallowing and, as a result, their ability to use cutlery and to eat and drink as before.
The person may benefit from equipment such as cutlery with large, contoured handles that are easier to grip, and non-spill cups with (often two) large handles or fittings for long or non-return straws. (These are straws that do not let liquid travel back down, making it easier to drink.)
Difficulties walking and moving
There are lots of different walking sticks, walking frames and wheelchairs to help people keep mobile and independent. People with limited mobility may often encounter difficulties moving position or place, for example from a bed to a chair. Equipment collectively known as ‘transfer aids’ can help here. An example of a transfer aid is a transfer turntable. This is a base that rotates, on which a person can stand and be swivelled. Chairs and beds can be adapted to make them height-adjustable. Hoists use pulleys and slings to help raise or lower people (for example, from or into bed). Many hoists are mobile so that they can be moved and used in different rooms.
Adaptations and improvements
Adaptations and improvements are changes made to a person’s home to make it easier, safer and more comfortable to live in. The home set-up also supports them to cope better with the difficulties they experience, makes them more independent, and improves their orientation. Adaptations range from putting up grab rails or adding ramps or wide doors for wheelchairs, to installing specially designed shower and toilet facilities, or changing the design of the home to make it more dementia friendly. Improvements or repairs could also include draught-proofing or improving heating systems.
If you would like any more information on independent living equipment or home adaptations to ensure your loved one lives well at home please contact our Product & Retail Manger Solly Gul who will be happy to help you.
You can reach him on: 020 8364 3670
Alternatively, pop into our shop at 49 Station Road N21 3NB for a friendly chat.