Setting Up a Room for Dementia

Setting up a room for a person suffering from dementia, whether it’s a room in a family home or in a memory care community, requires careful consideration to ensure safety, comfort and a sense of familiarity. The goal is to create an environment that provides quality of life in a manner that minimizes confusion and anxiety. It goes without saying that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for people suffering from dementia. Different people will have different needs, and the needs of any individual will change as their dementia progresses to a more advanced stage.

Safety First

Tripping Hazards
Of course, safety needs to be a paramount concern. Dementia can result in a reduced threshold for recognizing risks, as well as responding to them. Remove tripping hazards, such as area rugs, ottomans, and other objects that might be out of the person’s line of sight to make navigation safer. It bears mention that small pets that like to play underfoot can also be a hazard. Obviously, there are other issues with small pets for a person with dementia that we will not discuss here.

Medications and Harmful Substances
Medication management is an important issue for people suffering from dementia, because they can forget whether they have already taken a dose of their medication. There are numerous devices that will assist with medication control, but the ultimate solution will likely be to remove responsibility for medicating from the dementia sufferer.

Since a person with dementia may have compromised judgment, recognized hazardous substances, such as bleach and cleaning supplies, should be locked away so that they cannot be ingested. Similarly, precautions must be taken with normal items that might not typically be considered hazardous, but can be dangerous. Personal care products, such as nail polish and remover, lotions and shampoo/conditioner can be poisonous if swallowed. Even toothpaste, if ingested in sufficient quantities, can be toxic, due to its fluoride content.  

It is important to regularly inspect the environment to ensure that there is nothing dangerous present. Remember to regularly check the refrigerator for spoiled food. This list is not complete, so be sure to always exercise common sense. 

Lighting and Navigation

Consider installing motion sensors to turn lights on to make it easier for the dementia sufferer to see if they wake up in the middle of the night. They could be disoriented, so seeing familiar surroundings can be beneficial. Alternatively, you can set up a nightlight in their room or even in an adjacent room to provide some minimal light.

It is also important to make easy, navigable paths around the room. You might even want to install grab bars to prevent falls. Also, make sure that any furniture that could be used for leverage or balance assistance is well-secured and cannot be toppled over.

Embracing Familiarity

It is important that an environment familiar to the dementia sufferer be maintained in their living area. This includes familiar furniture, photos, bedding, etc. If they are moving to a memory care community, efforts should be made to make their new home feel like the home that they know. On a similar note, if the senior is living in the past and does not recognize recent photos, it may be more calming for them to see older photos that contain people they recognize. 

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Poor memory can result in extra stress on the dementia sufferer. It may be helpful to label drawers and closets with notes to indicate their contents. A whiteboard to remind caregivers and care receivers of important appointments or other information can also prove helpful. Swapping out their phone for a dementia-friendly one can be an invaluable aid and can reduce accidental calls to strangers. If it is accepted, a digital assistant can be very useful; this may take some getting used to, but paper signs can be put around the room with instructions. For example: “To call Alice, say ‘Alexa, call Alice.’”


Setting up a room for a person suffering from dementia is an ongoing process. As the illness progresses, needs will change and steps should be taken to adjust the environment. The first concern must always be safety, but quality of life comes in at a close second. It is important to be compassionate at all times and bear in mind that this is a scary situation for everyone involved.