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3.4 Managing difficulties at home

Strategies and therapy to help your life at home

Dementia makes it harder to manage at home

Home is important to us…

We like to take care of our home, however, dementia can make everyday tasks such as more cleaning, gardening, laundry, shopping and cooking difficult. We also need to take care of ourselves and having dementia may make self-care such as getting dressed, bathing, applying make-up or shaving more difficult.
Older people with dementia may have less strength and mobility, which can make everyday tasks even harder to manage.

You may have concerns about your safety at home, such as falling, leaving the cooker on, or forgetting to lock up the house. Family and friends might also worry about your safety.

There are things you can do to help with your daily activities at home, and reduce the risk of an accident. Occupational therapy, home modifications and technology can help you stay independent and doing things for yourself.
There are a range of benefits you may also be entitled to, to help you stay safe at home.

Benefits and support at home

There is equipment which is available to everyone.
You can also apply for a care needs assessment to help work out which services and financial support you may be entitled to.
Needs assessments are free and available to everyone.

You will need an assessment to work out if your local authority will provide support such as:

  • Equipment for use at home such as a walking frame or personal alarm
  • Home adaptations (e.g. raised bath seat)
  • Practical help from a paid carer

Needs assessments are provided through your local government (council) in England and Wales.
You can use the postcode finder to locate your local authority here.

Find more information for how to apply for a needs assessment in Plan services to get support.

Care information Scotland provide advice for getting an assessment of care needs in Scotland.

Strategies from others with dementia

Find solutions to everyday problems people face at home

Problem
I sometimes leave the taps on

Suggested strategies

  • Install a motion detector activated tap
  • Use a sink plug which is pressure activated, if the sink becomes too full it will let the sink empty rather than overflow
    See http://www.magiplug.com/

Problem
I take a long time getting dressed

Suggested strategies

  • Make it easier to decide what to wear each day. For example, buy multiples of clothes you like and wear similar clothes each day (such as jeans and t-shirt). Or match up seven ‘outfits’ and wear the same combinations each day of the week – also see Dealing with memory and thinking difficulties.
  • Declutter your wardrobe. Give away or throw out clothes you rarely wear. Organise your clothes and shoes so it’s easier to find things.
  • Choose clothes which are easy to put on. Adapt or get rid of clothes with complicated fastenings such as zips at the back or lots of buttons.

Problem
I have trouble cooking certain dishes, or hosting meals

Suggested strategies

  • Reorganise your kitchen so it’s easier to find things. Label storage containers and organise ingredients so they are easier to find. Declutter kitchen drawers and keep only the utensils and equipment you often use.
  • Organise your recipes. Write or print out recipes you use often and laminate them or put them in a folder.
  • Before you start cooking, get all the ingredients and equipment you need first, so that everything is in the one place.
  • Choose simpler recipes which have less ingredients or steps.
  • If you want to make important dishes for special celebrations, invite a family member or friend to make them with you.
  • Buy some ready made meals, rather than cooking from scratch.
  • Cook some dishes the day before the meal, so you don’t have to prepare several dishes at once.
  • For family or friends gatherings, ask others to bring a dish, or come early and help with preparation.

Read more about managing cooking in Managing memory and thinking difficulties and eating well in Boost your physical health

Problem
I sometimes forget to take my tablets or forget if I have already taken them

Suggested strategies

  • Use a dosette box. Your pills can be arranged into boxes with days and times on. You or someone else can prepare these for the person. You may be able to arrange this direct from the pharmacy.  Find out more at Simple Online Pharmacy.
  • Set a reminder on your smartphone to prompt you to take your medication.
  • If safe, keep your medication visible to remind you.
  • Take your medications at regular times. For example before or after a meal (as prescribed).

Problem
My family and friends worry about my safety want to take over jobs around the house

Suggested strategies

  • Have a conversation with your friends and family about how you feel. Be clear about how you feel about being independent.
  • Talk to your friends and family about whether the jobs you want to do are risky. For example, washing windows or painting when you need a ladder.
    Perhaps you could just wash the downstairs windows. See if you can put devices or strategies in place so you can keep doing the jobs you want to.
  • Make a list of the things you find easy to do without support. You could keep doing these and perhaps allow others to take over more physically demanding or complicated tasks.
  • Accept help, but let others know you want a say in how jobs are done.
  • Think about doing some jobs together.

Problem
I worry how I’ll manage if there is an emergency at home

Suggested strategies

  • Have phone numbers for emergency services, neighbours and local friends and family programmed into your phone. Also have the list of emergency numbers written out by the phone or in a diary or notebook. Some people have a notice board by the phone where they stick up or write important contact numbers.
  • Install a video doorbell so that you can see who is there before answering the door.
  • Install security cameras outside the home. You might ask a family member or friend to monitor these.
  • If you are often home alone, get a personal alarm system.
    This is a pendant that you wear around your neck. In an emergency, such as if you fall, you can press the button and it will alert the company and send a message to family or friends who can check up on you. Contact your local council to see if you are entitled to a free personal alarm – see Plan services to get support. You can also arrange your own personal alarm systems
  • Reduce your risk of tripping and falling at home.
    Simple actions such as removing rugs or clearing clutter can help.
    The NHS website gives safety tips to prevent falls at home and how to arrange a home hazard assessment

Problem
I forget to lock the doors and windows when out or at night

Suggested strategies

  • Put a large note behind the front door, reminding yourself to lock the doors and windows when you leave, (as well as reminding you to take your keys, wallet or bag and glasses).
  • Put a large note next to your bed, reminding yourself to lock the doors and windows before going to sleep.
  • Install self-locking door locks, these are automatically locked from the outside, but not the inside in case of a fire.
  • Depending on the design of your windows, you may be able to install window security measures so that the window can be locked open but still secure.
  • You can set up a reminder for a set time each night using devices such as your smartphone or Google Alexa.
    Find out more about these devices at Managing memory and thinking difficulties.
Start your own dementia toolkit
Clicking here will open the toolkit information page where you can learn how to create your own dementia toolkit.

Problem
I find it hard to fix things around my home

Suggested strategies

  • Ask a family member or friend to make repairs with you or for you.
  • Hire a tradesperson. Ask for a recommendation from someone you trust or use a national website to find a reliable recommendation.
  • Age UK can help you find local trades-people or there are national search sites available such as Check a Trade.
  • Avoid people who put fliers through your door or knock on your door.

Problem
I bump myself walking through doorways or past furniture

Suggested strategies

  • Put in brighter lighting and light dark areas such as hallways and storage areas.
  • Add contrasting colours to the edges of doorways or stairs, such as yellow against blue or dark blue against light blue.
  • Stirling University provide helpful information on colour contrasting for safety in the home.
  • Rearrange your furniture so that there is more space to walk.
  • Even inside, try using a walking stick for extra stability.
  • Motion sensor lights are available so that you don’t have to remember to switch lights on and off when you move around at night.

Using technology in everyday life

The suggested strategies to look after yourself at home mention a range of different technologies you can use.

These are just examples and there are many more ways you might find technology help to keep you independent and safe at home.
You can also find out how you can use technology to help with your memory and thinking in Managing memory and thinking difficulties.

You can find items to help you around the home at The Alzheimer’s Society shop which has a section for help around the home

Alzproducts also sell a range of products for home safety such as medication dispensers, night lights, and socket covers.

 

Occupational therapy and home modifications

Occupational therapists are trained professionals to help you manage everyday activities at home.

For example, they might help you to safely manage using your bath or shower, find equipment to keep safe in the kitchen, or advise on falls hazards in your house.
Research studies consistently show that occupational therapy helps people with dementia keep doing things that are important to them and delays the need to go into care.
Learn more about how occupational therapists may be able to help you
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapy if you need support with your daily tasks and activities at home.  Find more information on referal in Plan services to get support

Home modifications
Home modifications are changes to your home which make it easier and safer for you to go about your daily activities. These might be simple ideas you can try yourself or you may need help or advice from others such as a tradesperson or an occupational therapist. Examples include:

  • Adding safety rails or outdoor lighting where someone might trip
  • Removing furniture which is blocking a pathway
  • Buying new a lounge chair with arms which is easier to stand up from.

Home modifications might also involve using technology such as an ipad or digital clock/calendar.
Find out more advice for staying safe and comfortable at home.

Age UK also provide helpful tips for making your home dementia friendly.
The Alzheimer’s society also have a guide for staying safe at home
which includes issues such as online security and fraud.

Services which support you at home

Private cleaners, gardeners and tradespeople

If you can afford them, private cleaners, gardeners and tradespeople can help you maintain your home and garden. Cleaners, gardeners and handypeople can do jobs that might be difficult or dangerous for you such as making beds, cleaning blinds, DIY and mowing lawns. Your family, friends and neighbours may be able to make a recommendation. See the section on practical strategies for I find it hard to fix things around my home for ideas to find local tradespeople for home maintenance.

You can read more about help at home through social care services or private services in Plan services to get support

Ask your doctor

Ask for a referral to occupational therapy service.

Modify your home

Make changes to your home to support your independence. Start off with simple changes such as moving furniture or making sure you have good lighting.

Look into benefits

Check if you are entitled to any benefits for equipment to help you stay safe.

Try some strategies

Reread the article and write down some strategies that you think might be helpful to you when you are out. Then try them out.

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