The benefits of dementia signage

It may seem strange to put signs up the home, especially if your loved one has lived there for years. But for someone with dementia, simple signs can be life changing. Find out why

So you want the person you're caring for to be able to navigate their own home with confidence and dignity? Well, one of the best ways to ensure this remains possible is by using signs to help guide them around the house and remain independent.

Whether it’s signs for rooms, or labels for cupboards and drawers, keep your mind open and consider the following:

1. Use pictures
2. Create a colour contrast
3. Find the right height
4. Link colours to rooms
5. Give direction

1. Use pictures

A sign explaining that a particular door leads to the kitchen or toilet is useful, but only if the person reading it is still able to recognise words and letters. Sadly, dementia can lead to a condition called primary progressive aphasia (PPA), which occurs when problems in the brain mean you lose the ability to read, write and understand language. It happens most often in people with frontotemporal dementia. But don't worry, there are ways of getting round this.

- Use signage which includes an image of the room or item associated with it as well as the word. For example, signs for the bathroom could have a picture of a bath or shower, while a label for the sock drawer includes a picture of socks.

2. Create a colour contrast

Think about where you will be putting the signs. If you’re sticking them on to a dark coloured background such as a wooden door, make sure the sign stands out and is easy to see by making it a contrasting colour, or by sticking it onto a piece of white paper before putting it on the door.

3. Find the right height

Regardless of their height, people with memory loss are more likely to look slightly down, rather than up or straight forward, so it’s best to place signs in their natural eyeline.

- The best height for a sign is about four to five foot from the floor.

4. Link colours to rooms

Making the signs for particular rooms all the same colour can be a useful way to guide someone around where they need to go if they’re having trouble reading the words.

- Use common sense when it comes to colour schemes – bathrooms involve water, so use blue as a colour scheme, gardens have grass, so use green as a colour scheme.

- If the room has a particular colour scheme (a green-tiled bathroom or a peach-coloured bedroom), you could put the sign on the same coloured background so they make the connection.

5. Give direction

If the toilet or bathroom is on the other side of the house from where they spend most of their time, they might need help finding their way to it.

- Set up signs that have a finger or arrow showing them the direction they need to go in.

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