There are changes we can make to the home environment to reduce confusion or triggering difficult behaviors for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Check the lighting in the house to reduce glare (reflections off a shiny kitchen counter top, for example) and to reduce shadows. The changes in lighting can cause agitation. Sundowning is a behavior often seen in reaction to changes in light as the sun sets and the rooms in the home darken. The sense of uneasiness can lead to more aggressive reactions to requests and tasks.
2. Remove or cover mirrors and other reflective surfaces as the loved one may not recognize the person in the mirror and become afraid of the stranger.
3. Family pictures can also create confusion for the patient when they do not recognize the faces. You might be asked why there are pictures of strangers in the house and who put them on the walls.
4. Busy patterns in flooring, on walls or furniture can also create confusion. Simple, solid colored covers could reduce the visual stimulation and help a person to remain more calm.
5. The use of color can aid in helping to distinguish every day items such as the location of a plate on a place mat. There are several new brands of dishes and flatware for ease of use and brightly colored. Substituting plastic glasses and plates for china can reduce an accidental breakage. Having only two to four plates and cups in the cupboard at once reduces the number of decisions to be made.
6. Please remember that odors and sharp sounds can also be triggers for aggressive behavior. One aromatherapy specialist suggested that the smell of the herb rosemary might contribute to agitation. Soft background music can contribute to a soothing environment and may bring fond memories to the forefront.
Please reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association and local support groups for more suggestions.