Dementia significantly changes how a person interacts with their living space, especially flooring. Although each person will respond differently, perceptual changes heighten fall risk when persons with dementia walk on patterned flooring. Consider these following examples:
Living room patterned carpet. Charles started walking more tentatively on his living room oriental carpet. The multi-colored patterns were now perceived as “things that fell on the carpet”. Sometimes they were “cut up pieces of paper” that needed to be picked up and, at other times, they were obstacles that needed to be walked around. Charles had a stumbling gait to begin with, and walking with distractions or bending over to pick up items that didn’t exist just heightened his fall risk. And he also became more agitated. Replacing the patterned carpet with a dementia-friendly plain colored carpet solved the problem. It gave Charles back his ability to walk with greater physical and psychology ease. (An alternative was to leave the wooden floors bare.)
Kitchen checkerboard floor. Roy had to replace the black and white checkerboard kitchen flooring as his wife Tracy was stepping over the black squares, which she thought were holes in the floor. Roy said, “It was shocking at first, but I finally realized that trying to convince her they weren’t holes was useless. Her brain was just getting a different message, I guess. She really believed she would fall into a hole if she stepped on the black tile.”
Bathtub decals. No matter how decorative yellow baby chick bath decals may seem, people with dementia may not be able to tell what is real and what is a representation. Can you imagine stepping into a bathtub with chick decals and believing that there really were baby chicks in it? That you might actually step on one of them? For a dementia friendly bathing space, it’s best to use plain colored bath mats or plain bath strips.
As people with dementia are at a heighted risk for falls, do everything you can to make walking safer for them. The good news is that you can replace flooring that has a negative effect on your loved one’s mobility. Hopefully, you’ll benefit too (less stress) if your loved one’s safety and well-being is improved.
Giving good dementia care is really is all about getting into and understanding their world, isn’t it?