An interesting story about one assisted living company’s approach to designing an environment for people with Alzheimer’s disease has been lighting up social media, even garnering a feature on national news programs.
And for good reason.
Lantern Assisted Living Facilities have created an environment that meets people with Alzheimer’s and dementia where they are in terms of memory. For this generation, that means going back to a time when front porches were used for socializing, the smell of homemade bread was common in the house and people spent time enjoying the great outdoors instead of sitting in front of a television.
Lantern CEO, Jean Makesh started to think about the way that environment has an effect on people — particularly on people who struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This prompted him to create a living space for patients that had a ‘30s and ‘40s feel to it. Instead of looking like a sterile hallway, Makesh worked to create homey rooms that were designed like front-porches to houses on a street where a patient may have grown up.
However, these weren’t the only features Makesh dreamed up for this innovative project.
Features Designed to Make Seniors with Alzheimer’s Feel at Home
Lantern communities have indoor “front porches” that serve as the entrance to the resident’s individual suite. Among the uniquely designed features are:
- Carpeting that looks like grass
- Optics in the ceiling that mimic daytime and nighttime skies
- Aromatherapy that changes throughout the day
- Piped in sounds that range from music to birds chirping
- Lighting that automatically dims as evening approaches to help seniors maintain their natural circadian rhythms
Alzheimer’s & Environment: Creating a Supportive Living Space at Home
While it probably isn’t feasible to add a front porch to the entrance of your senior loved one’s bedroom or to replace their carpeting with turf-like grass, there are steps you can take to help make their home more comfortable for them.
- The Power of Scent: Aromatherapy is used in a variety of settings from cancer centers to hospice programs. Research has also shown it can be effective in treating people with Alzheimer’s. Rosemary and lemon can boost mood. Lavender has elements that help calm and soothe. Peppermint can provide energy. And for older adults who have lost interest in eating, scents like ginger and grapefruit can help stimulate appetite.
- Lighting in the Home: People with Alzheimer’s often experience a disruption in their body’s natural circadian rhythms. It can lead to insomnia and other sleep problems. Instead of keeping bright lights on in the home until it is time to go to bed, install dimmer switches in the rooms your senior loved one spends the most time in. Gradually dim the lights as day turns into night. The reverse is true for mornings and early afternoon. Keep the rooms brightly lit.
- Family Photos and Memory Boxes: Another way to help your loved one relax and feel at home is to place photos from years past around their home. Use pictures from whatever time frame they seem to recognize most. You can also create memory boxes filled with some of their favorite mementoes and cherished possessions from younger days.
- Music as Therapy: The healing harmonies of music are well documented. It can be used to boost mood, provide energy or to calm the spirit. You can set up different playlists for your loved one depending upon what mood you are trying to encourage.
- Fall-Free Pathways: Creating a positive environment also includes safety. People with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia are at higher risk for falls because they often have problems with vision (especially depth perception) and walk with a more shuffled gait. It’s important to keep their pathways clear of clutter and anything that might present a fall hazard, such as uneven stairs or torn carpeting.
Taking time to create a positive, supportive home for a senior with Alzheimer’s can provide them with a better quality of life while making the caregiver’s job a little bit easier.
Do you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Have you noticed whether they feel better with certain types of decor that reminds them of a familiar place? What small changes have you made to their environment that have made a big impact in their lives? Let us know in the comments below.