Creating a comfortable and safe environment for older adults
They are many things that can be done to make an older adult’s home a comfortable and safe environment — that’s also an easier setting for those providing his or her care as well. The following things can help create a better environment for everyone involved!
- If it’s working well “as is,” keep furniture in its place. Don’t rearrange it only for the sake of “changing things up.”
- Keep walking paths free of clutter.
- Keep noise levels low. Turn off TVs when not in use. If listening to music on the radio, stick with easy-listening songs that the older adult can also enjoy, and keep the volume down.
- When children and/or pets come to visit, monitor their activities and interaction with the senior. Most older people enjoy visits from children and pets, but some might become agitated or restless. Move those seniors to a quiet place, and give them time to settle. Ask guests to keep their visiting children supervised at all times; children should never be allowed to run or yell in the house.
- Keep things that belong to the senior on display. Doing so helps the person identify with his or her own space.
- During the day, keep light levels high. Studies show that bright indoor lights mimic the effects of sunlight on the body, which can help the senior be more wakeful during the day and sleep better at night.
- If the senior tends to become more agitated or restless in the evening, try lowering the lights and stopping activities for an hour in the afternoon. This rest period might be all that’s needed to calm and soothe a person with dementia, while preventing “sundowning” — an increased confusion and restlessness in patients with delirium or dementia that occurs as night begins to fall and as their environment darkens.
- At night, keep only a small nightlight on. When doing night checks, don’t turn on the overhead lights. Overhead lights on at night can fool an individuals’ bodies into thinking it’s day and disturb sleep. Use a flashlight instead.
- Keep your voice calm and relaxed at all times. Try not to let your own worries, concerns, or anxieties show in your voice.
- Do your best to create a sense of “home” in everything you do. Avoid taking a “medical” or “institutional” approach.
- If you are rushed or in a hurry, others will sense this, and they might respond by becoming restless or anxious. Relax. Try to take your time with the senior, even when you’re busy or have a lot of work to complete.
- Try approaching all tasks as an “activity.” Have fun with bathing, dressing, and grooming tasks by adding conversation, singing, or music at the same time. Remember, these one-on-one moments are your chance to add quality to the older adult’s life, and joy to their day.
- Use music often. Music touches the soul and can soothe a confused, distressed mind.
Information courtesy of Institute for Professional Care Education, © 2017