When someone treasured in your life transitions to memory care, helping prepare them for the move can seem overwhelming. One element that sometimes is put off until the last minute is decorating a new memory care apartment tailored to someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Doing so often involves deciding which items from their former home are suitable, as well as choosing new pieces that reflect your loved one's taste, while also keeping security and safety in mind.
Using Familiar Items
While it’s impractical to cram large pieces into memory care apartments, which often already contain the basics, there are always ways to bring familiar objects from home. Start with the smaller pieces of furniture that may work, such as a slim rocking chair or small bookcase.
Framed photos are both a connection to their previous home and a good memory booster. In general, however, decorative pieces make the most significant impact. Also, consider other framed pieces you know your loved one treasures, especially those that a story, such as those collected on travels, or that a grandchild made.
Also, look for objects that don’t take up much space but pack a decorative punch. Include pillows and throws, a bedspread, wall clocks, lampshades, or figurines, especially if you know your loved one is attached to them.
Try to look at the soon-to-be-former home through your loved one’s eyes. Maybe she’s always kept her mail in a wall shelf that you made in shop class decades ago. Small pieces like this can hold a world of meaning. Also, think about the “knick-knacks” that do double duty as organizers, such as a “catch-all” tray that your loved one keeps his spare change in or a brush-and-mirror bureau set you to know she treasures.
Letting Their Style Be Your Guide
Even if you need to replace the original home’s furniture with more petite versions for the memory care apartment, those pieces can still tell a story.
Did your loved one prefer the lightness of birch rockers and white kitchen cabinets? Or did she go for dark-stained oak bookcases and tables? These clues can help if you need to buy new pieces such as a small kitchen table or comfy chair, or even when choosing picture frames
Textile pieces are also important. Even if you bring some favorites from home, chances are you’ll find yourself shopping for items like curtains, sheets, towels, placemats, tablecloths, or a new bedspread. Think about the prints and patterns you know they respond to
Keep in mind, too: You can still carve a smaller studio into zones. Your loved one might appreciate more soothing hues in the sleeping area, such as sage green comforter and curtains, but may enjoy livelier colors and prints in their crafting/eating space.
And don’t worry that you’re not a mind-reader. If you’re not sure, for example, whether your widowed father liked peach-colored hand towels and frilled curtains – or if your mother always yearned for more modern artwork – just ask. If they don’t feel up to a trip to the local department store, they may have enthusiasm for looking at photos online.
Filling in the Gaps
There will inevitably be items that you either can’t take from your loved one’s former home or that they have no opinion about replacing. In those cases, making choices based on soothing colors and patterns, as well as safety concerns, is often the best bet.
A few things to consider:
- Set up the apartment so there is ample walking space. Uncomplicated movement is essential, especially for people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
- Avoid convertible furniture if your loved one finds them too complicated. Rather than drop-leaf tables, for example, choose scaled-down tables.
- If you’re unsure what colors or patterns your loved one might prefer, go for soothing shades and subtle prints. Blues and greens are considered calming, but pastels can be cheerful without overwhelming. Busy, smaller patterns can be too overwhelming, while larger prints depicting tranquil nature scenes are great choices.
- Large area rugs are better than smaller ones, which present a tripping hazard.
- Set corded pieces like table lamps, radios, and charging stations on furniture that’s against the wall to avoid tripping incidents. In addition, choose lamps and bulbs that provide soft, diffused light rather than harsh or overly bright light.
- Still have some bare spots on the shelves or walls? Look for prints, calendars, or decorative pieces that reflect your loved one’s hobbies or interests, from maps and botanical prints to signed baseballs and walking sticks.
Remember: If you need ideas for a memory care unit, or about what kinds of memory support services we offer at Marjorie P. Lee, we are here to help. Contact us at your convenience to learn more about how our memory care homes and memory support services can help people with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia lead happier, more productive lives.