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How to Decorate a Memory Care Room

elderly woman sitting on a couch with her eyes closed

How to Design and Decorate a Memory Care Room

Dementia-friendly design for loved ones living at home or in a memory care residence at a senior living community should be both aesthetic and practical. Creature comforts can help a memory care apartment feel more like home and be more comforting for those with memory issues, but ideas for dementia rooms should also encompass design features that make the challenges of living with dementia easier and safer. Keep these memory care decorating ideas in mind to strike the right balance in your loved one’s residence. 

Memory care decorating ideas for every room

For someone living with dementia, losing items can be incredibly stressful. Clutter is confusing for them to navigate. Dementia-friendly design should create clear, uncluttered spaces with necessary items highly visible to make it easier for loved ones to see the items they need each day. You might also place stickers on cupboards, listing what can be found within them, or replace cupboard doors with clear doors so it’s easy to see the items inside. It’s also easier for people with dementia to find what they’re looking for if the items have a solid color and can be placed on a surface with a contrasting color — a light plate on a dark placemat, doors that contrast with the walls around them, and so on. Busy patterns on clothing, carpeting, and countertops create visual confusion and make things harder to see.

Too many clashing patterns can even cause agitation in people with dementia from too much visual stimulation. For floors, stick to bare hardwood or plain carpeting. If area rugs or mats are needed, use light colored, non-patterned floor covers that are well-secured and non-slip.In all rooms, natural lighting is most desirable. Older people may already have difficulties with their vision, and poorly lit rooms make it harder to see and find what they’re looking for. In places where natural light isn’t possible, table and task lamps (as opposed to harsh ceiling fixtures) can provide soft, even illumination. Shiny or reflective surfaces on floors or tabletops can cause confusion because they create shadows and glare.Sound is also part of dementia-friendly design.

Background noise can cause undue stress on a person living with dementia. If sound reverberates too much, it can create a disorienting effect that may agitate your loved one. For a more calming effect, try to incorporate noise-absorbing materials and soft furnishings such as carpets and curtains to reduce harsh sounds. On the other hand, utter silence can also be disorienting to people with dementia. Try to have soft, gentle background sounds or music … maybe a familiar radio station with low music and gentle talking. 

The all-important bedroom

Loved ones living with dementia need a good night’s sleep. And if they have to get up during the night, the environment and décor has to be safe enough for them to do so without tripping, falling or becoming disoriented. It can be difficult for people with dementia to find or identify their bed. They should be able to see it easily from as many locations as possible, including from the toilet area, so they can see where they need to go and where to return to. The bed itself should be accessible from both sides. Use contrasting sheets and comforters to clearly define the sleeping area for them. Avoid busy patterns. Ideally, choose solid colors for bedding and linens that contrast with the carpet.Raised, rounded edges on a bed frame or round or oval-shaped tables are best for people with dementia. A hospital-style bed can be adjusted, raised and lowered to help them get in and out of bed more safely. It can also be placed at the most convenient height for your loved one.

Clothing wardrobes can sometimes be adapted to remain partly open to display only a single day’s clothing. Partially open-fronted drawers help indicate the contents. Chairs should be comfortable and made with rounded timber or padded upholstery in contrasting colors. In general, the design of all furniture should be traditional and recognizable to a loved one with dementia. Design that is minimalist or ultra-modern is likely to be confusing.Night lights or lamps that illuminate when activated by a movement sensor may help a person get around safely. A commode is useful if a person can’t always reach the bathroom. A sensor mat in the bed or body-worn continence device can also help with this. 

Personalizing the bedroom

Though the space needs to be practical, this doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish and beautiful. For the bedroom itself, avoid using bright, energetic colors such as orange, red, and purple, since these can be overly stimulating to someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Stick with calming, softer colors such as pale yellow, blue, and brown. Having personal items in a bedroom — framed photos, hairbrush and comb, a person’s signature perfume bottle, keepsakes that evoke positive memories – will reassure your loved one and help them identify this room as their own. An analog clock set to the right time may be easier and more familiar to read to determine the time of day.

 Visual stimulation is important for people with Alzheimer’s, and decorating the walls is one of the best ways to provide it. Good wall hangings evoke positive memories — photos and mementos that help your loved one feel more connected with their past and emphasize that their home is indeed theirs. An attractive memo board to keep important notes, reminders, and photos posted and easily accessible can be a nice touch. The cards and items on the board can be rotated out to keep it fresh and organized. Be aware of mirrors. Any reflective surface can be disruptive to an older person with dementia, causing them to feel frightened or become agitated. Streetlights reflecting on a window at night, for instance, may be interpreted as a stranger looking through the window. To avoid this, it’s best to draw the curtains after dark, and to remove or cover any large, hanging mirrors. 

Personalizing the room entry

Since objects tend to trigger memories for dementia patients, creating a memory box for the outside area leading to the bedroom is a useful, aesthetic way to engage your loved one and to help identify the room itself. These are basically shadow boxes creatively arranged to contain meaningful, comforting mementos from an individual’s past. 


Discover memory care at Freedom Village

A thoughtfully designed, aesthetic memory care room or residence is a sanctuary for an older adult with dementia, a place to rest, unwind and feel comfortable and safe. At Freedom Village, our person-centered memory care philosophy is grounded in the belief that the abilities that remain are far more important than those that are lost. Our programs focus on sustaining feelings of belonging, purpose and safety, while seeking to preserve a sense of self. To learn more about our community, please call us at ​616-200-7271.