Dementia and Occupational Therapy - Home caregiver and senior adult woman

Caregiver Tips on Creating a Nurturing Environment for Seniors with Dementia

February 28, 2019

If you’re a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you know how important it is to maintain a dependable routine and keep stress levels low. Because the cognitive deterioration associated with dementia can cause confusion and agitation, creating a calming environment free of excess stimulation is especially important. While we can’t always control how each day is going to go, there are some preventive steps worth taking that can significantly lower stress levels and prevent outbursts. Here are some ideas to think about at home and in memory care facilities:

  • Remove environmental stressors: Sudden or loud noises, fast talking, or background noise in general can be agitating for someone with cognitive impairment. Keep the TV turned off and avoid news radio; stick to calming music at low levels.
  • Keep lighting at soothing levels: Bright lights and glare can be stressful or disorienting; use shades or blinds to block excessive sunlight and rely on ambient lighting rather than harsh overhead sources.
  • Stay three steps ahead: Anticipating discomfort or preventing it all together is critical to avoiding agitation and outbursts. Stay ahead of hunger, dehydration, bathroom needs, and fatigue by maintaining a schedule that helps you predict and prevent potential issues.
  • Consider an aquarium: A recent study of aquariums placed in Alzheimers units indicated residents were calmer, more engaged, and had lower blood pressure levels. Putting together a simple aquarium is a fun activity in itself, and daily maintenance doesn’t have to be a big undertaking, if you choose the fish wisely.
  • Introduce aromatherapy: Scented oils, lotions, or candles can all promote calm and tranquility. Have a pleasant scented candle burning in a safe spot; give Mom a hand massage with lavender oil. Or if possible, make a simple hand-stitched lavender pillow together to capture soothing scents you can enjoy for weeks.
  • Polish, fold, shell: Simple tactile activities like polishing wood or silver until it gleams, folding laundry, or shelling peas can be quite therapeutic. Familiar tasks like these help seniors to focus and reduce stress, while achieving a sense of accomplishment that can keep mom’s mood relaxed and positive.
  • Create a relaxation space: Choose a room or an area with a window and arrange a comfortable chair, some books, maybe a fountain or a fish tank. Add a small coffee table and a puzzle, or some pretty books to leaf through. Having a dedicated space for alleviating stress is an effective way for Mom to make sure it actually happens!
  • Install a bird feeder: If space permits, putting a bird feeder in Dad’s yard is another way for him to engage in a calming routine. Research which food attracts the local bird population, and have Dad track what varieties he sees each week.

Do you have some ideas to share? Tell us in the comments!  And if you’re wondering whether staying at home or a move to senior living and memory care facilities is your best bet, our solutions guide helps explain what your options are. Check it out by clicking the link below. 

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