How to Create a Home That Supports Alzheimer’s and Dementia Needs

By Zina Kumok | September 1, 2023

Support and help from caregiver walking with senior man in retirement home. Hands of female medical worker and Alzheimers male in hospice care.

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If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you can make certain home improvements to help your loved one feel more comfortable and safe at home. We spoke with experts in the field about how to create a better environment for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias:



Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia comes in different types, and the disease generally includes symptoms such as memory loss, poor reasoning skills, and a loss of other cognitive functions. Memory loss associated with dementia is greater than the type of memory loss associated with normal aging.

Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that can result in dementia and other issues. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it can result in additional difficulty walking, speaking, and even swallowing.

“During the early stage of the disease, individuals with dementia may only need a little help in conducting daily activities and living on their own. As the disease progresses into the middle stages, however, the physical abilities of people begin to decline. Balance and mobility may become more challenging, vision problems can occur, and judgment may become compromised,” says Moreno.

“Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it’s critical that families and other caregivers monitor for changes and adapt the living environment accordingly,” Moreno adds.



Creating a Safe Space in the Home

Whether an individual has dementia or specifically Alzheimer’s, the home environment can play a huge role in how they manage the disease. A well-designed space can help the individual age in the familiar comfort of their home rather than a care facility.

“For them to be able to do that, we need to encourage independence and dignity for that person by creating an environment that focuses on what they can do rather than what they cannot,” says Welch. “It’s not healthy for anyone to live in an environment where they are constantly reminded of their disability.” You should keep key environmental considerations in mind when optimizing your home for a person diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Safety and Accessibility

Many of the safety and accessibility suggestions listed below are smart practices for any home, but they’re critical for a person living with memory loss and cognitive impairments.

Linda Mockler and Leah Daly at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America say that adding motion sensor detectors that alert a care partner if a patient is on the move are one of the best features to invest in. “Unsupervised walking, also known as wandering, can be a dangerous or even deadly practice for individuals living with [Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias],” Mockler says. “Alerts like this can discreetly alert a care partner that someone has left the residence and they can take immediate action.”

Below are some other ways to improve safety and accessibility in your home:

Lighting Improvements

In some cases, people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s also have low vision. This, combined with cognitive decline, can make seeing more difficult. Good lighting can help your loved one navigate the home safely.

“Aim for good lighting and offer color contrast in rooms to distinguish between walls and flooring,” says Nisson. “In the bathroom, [provide] contrast between flooring and the shower or toilet to support visual-spatial changes that may occur.”

You can improve the lighting conditions in your home by doing the following:

Organization and Navigation

People with memory loss disease may have difficulty remembering where things are and even how to get around a home—even if they’ve lived there for decades.

“Labels are helpful anywhere around the house where someone might need some extra help to jog their memory, including drawers and bathroom cabinets,” says Daly.

You can take a few steps to promote organization and navigation in the home:

Cognitive Support and Engagement

Alzheimer’s and dementia lead to brain deterioration, which can make the person feel more disconnected from their home and the outside world, according to Mockler. “This disconnection makes it challenging to interact with this world that becomes more confusing as the disease progresses,” she says. “The severity of memory loss affects how individuals experience the world around them. Mild memory loss may lead to an individual forgetting appointments, where objects are located, or the ability to do some complex tasks like creating a budget.”

You can make a few changes at home to provide cognitive support and engagement:

Assistive Technology and Smart-Home Solutions

Both Mockler and Daly of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommend investing in smart-home technology to improve the quality of life for memory loss patients at home. Below are a few ideas:

A Calm and Comforting Environment

The experts we spoke with included many tips for making the home more calming and comfortable for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Below is a compilation of those suggestions:



Supporting Caregivers and Family Members

Many caregivers spend time watching TV or movies with their loved ones. Having a comfortable seating area with plenty of pillows can make this a cozy space. Keep a chest with blankets for the colder months.

Caregivers who also live in the home should use locks to keep personal belongings. The goal is to minimize any possible source of confusion.

It can also be helpful for caregivers to create a system for medical records, insurance claims, and other important documents. If you’re also managing the person’s finances, you should find a filing system that works for you.



Organizations That Provide Assistance for People With Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The following are national organizations that offer support to people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association raises money for Alzheimer’s research and lobbies for more government support. It also offers a free, 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900) to help individuals and families navigate disease-related challenges and connect them to local services and support.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America supports both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers with a variety of services and resources. Caregivers can speak with a licensed social worker for free, seven days a week. The foundation’s virtual “Teal Room” offers free classes that caregivers and patients can participate in together, including music, fitness, dance, and art.

Caregiver Action Network

The Caregiver Action Network is an organization that supports caregivers. It has many resources to help caregivers manage their responsibilities, including organizational tips and checklists.

Dementia Society of America

The Dementia Society of America provides help to those with dementia by sponsoring events at local nursing and assisted living homes. It also offers a free cognitive screening if you’re worried that a loved one has dementia.

Dementia Spring Foundation

The Dementia Spring Foundation offers art therapy for those living with dementia. It also provides caregivers who are supporting someone with dementia with art supplies so they can participate in art therapy together. The organization also sponsors artists who produce works related to the theme of dementia.

Lewy Body Dementia Association

As the second-most common kind of dementia, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is less well-known than Alzheimer’s, but it can be just as devastating. The Lewy Body Dementia Association provides free support groups to families and caregivers of LBD patients.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a list of services for veterans with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The VA also provides a list of resources for any caregivers or family members—veteran status or not.



Our Recommendation

It’s possible to care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at home, as long as the right home modifications and improvements are in place to ensure their safety and comfort. However, modifications likely won’t be a one-and-done process. “Keeping the home environment safe for people living with dementia should be viewed as a fluid process—one that will require escalating strategies as the disease progresses,” says Moreno.

We recommend implementing the relevant expert tips in our guide and consulting with the medical professionals caring for your loved one to develop a home modification plan that works best for your home.



Our Experts

Eugenia Welch: Eugenia Welch has been volunteering with people living with dementia since she was 16. She turned that passion into a career and spent nearly 25 years as the executive director at two different assisted living and memory care communities in California before joining Alzheimer’s San Diego. During her tenure in the senior living industry, Welch was named Executive Director of the Year by the California Assisted Living Association. Her ultimate goal is that organizations like Alzheimer’s San Diego someday become irrelevant, thanks to the discovery of an effective treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s.

Leah Daly: Leah Daly, MPH, CHES, is the education program manager at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. In this role, she helps design, evaluate, and facilitate training regarding Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Daly has been working in community education and mobilization for nearly a decade and currently works on behalf of individuals with dementia and their care teams. Her goal is to make individuals and communities safer, healthier, and more fulfilled through effective, compelling, and fun programming and training.

Linda Mockler: Linda Mockler, LMSW, M.Ed, has been working in the field of aging for more than a decade. She currently serves as a senior social worker at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Lori Nisson: Lori Nisson, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and the family and community services director at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. She has spent more than 20 years specializing in leadership and clinical positions, serving the needs of patients and families coping with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. Nisson serves in many other positions as well, including as an adjunct faculty at Arizona State University: Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation; she is also involved with the Arizona Dementia Caregiver Alliance, the Milken Institute Alliance to Improve Dementia Care, and the Arizona End-of-Life Care Partnership.

Monica Moreno: Monica Moreno is a senior director of care and support at The Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.

How to Create a Home To Support Alzheimer’s and Dementia