A little support makes a big difference

Make the environment comfortable for me

The physical environments of hospitals and other care settings can be highly distracting and confusing to people living with dementia and can cause them distress.

Fortunately, there are some simple improvements to physical spaces that can be made to greatly improve the experience of people living with dementia.

Clear and simple signage

Make sure any important signage is written in a large, clear font (Helvetica or Arial, 18 point where possible) with clear backgrounds, free of unnecessary decorations. Signs should be placed at a height of 1.2 metres so they can easily be seen. Removing unnecessary signage is also helpful.

Less noise and distraction

People living with dementia can become confused or stressed by loud, competing noises or distractions such as bright lights, loud TV or radio, or loud conversations. Less distractions will help people living with dementia to focus and stay calm. Too many mirrors and reflective surfaces can also provide unhelpful stimulation.

Sheet of paper for visitor names

Having a sheet of paper where visitors can write their names will help people living with dementia remember who has visited them and why. It may also comfort them to look at the names and know that they have been visited by people who care about them.

A calendar by the bed

Something as simple as a calendar by the bed , or somewhere easily seen, can quickly orient the person and enable greater independence. Ensure that calendars and clocks in your care setting are always accurate.

Simple symbols

Sometimes using simple symbols for signs or to indicate functions of items or rooms can be helpful. For example, a symbol for a toilet on the bathroom door.

Keep the bathroom in view

Making sure there is a clear, unobstructed line of view from the bed to the bathroom reassures the person that they know exactly where the bathroom is if they need it.

Well-lit spaces

It’s important that good lighting is in place to reduce shadowing, reflect the correct time of day and ensure that the person doesn’t become disorientated – a minimum level of 300 lux is best. Where possible, make sure the curtains are open so the person has good access to natural light. A bed next to a window is best to restore good sleep patterns.

Keep important items in sight

It helps to keep important items such as toothbrushes in a visible location , rather than hidden out of sight in a cupboard or drawer, so that the person can access them easily and independently. A glass of water should also be kept in view as a visual cue to stay hydrated. Want to learn more about dementia? Go to our Resources section for guides, help sheets, videos and other resources.

The National Dementia Helpline is a free service that provides information and advice to all people who would like to know more about dementia or access services and support.

Dementia Australia’s national library service offers a comprehensive collection of print and digital resources about dementia. Explore more resources about improving the home environment.