Caring for an aging parent or loved one is challenging enough. But, Alzheimer's and dementia can make in-home care even tougher, leaving many families with no choice but to seek assistance from a care center.
One primary problem is the memory loss that comes with such conditions. It makes it difficult for your loved ones to navigate around their own homes. Spaces that were once familiar become foreign. Which leaves caretakers very few options.
But, a new app has been developed with hopes of solving that problem. It's called "The Dementia-Friendly Home," and it's designed to give caretakers an extra tool that can help keep those with Alzheimer's and dementia in their own homes longer.
The app uses similar software to that used in video games to create an interactive, 3-D space that offers suggestions on furniture placement, color usage and decor, to help users eliminate problem areas in the patient's own home. Developers hope the app will enable caretakers to make adaptations that will allow Alzheimer's and dementia patients to stay in their homes and communities longer, without putting them at risk of accidents or injuries.
To work, The Dementia-Friendly Home uses the 10 principles of dementia enabling, which include the following:
- Unobtrusively reduce risks.
- Provide human scale.
- Allow people to see and be seen.
- Reduce unhelpful stimulation.
- Optimize helpful stimulation.
- Support movement and engagement.
- Create a familiar space.
- Provide opportunities to be alone or with others.
- Provide links to the community.
- Respond to a vision for way of life.
Many of the suggestions provided by the app are things that any homeowner can do easily. Removing clutter and labeling cabinet doors with pictures, for example, are just a few of the small changes that can make a big difference. Some of the larger changes include installing motion sensors that turn lights on and off automatically and changing out busily-patterned tile or flooring that could potentially confuse the resident.
Within the app, users navigate through virtual before-and-after spaces. Question marks are placed in key locations within the "before" spaces, and users can tap on these question marks to get more information about how those areas present a concern for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.
In the photos above, the question marks call attention to various problem areas one might encounter within the bedroom of someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia. Some of which seem obvious, but others are much more subtle. For example, according to the app, the white walls in the bathroom might make it more difficult for the patient to navigate the space without confusion.
Once the key problem areas have been identified, the app provides examples on how the spaces can be modified to better accommodate the resident's changing needs. Question marks are also included in these virtual spaces, so users can get more information about the suggestions being made.
The Dementia-Friendly Home was created by Maree McCabe, of Alzheimer's Australia, whose extensive work helped to identify this blatant gap and need.
Of the project, McCabe said, "This app aims to enable people living with dementia to maintain their independence and continue living at home. It may also help build on their self-esteem, which can have a profound impact on the quality of life for a person living with dementia, as well as families and carers."