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Unique development work accomplished in Hämeenlinna
Modifications to the memory-impaired person's home facilitate safer living

The Hämeenlinna company Sosiaalikehitys Oy is in charge of research and development work that finds ways of making adjustments in the home so that people with dementia can cope better. On the project a method was created in order to tactfully ascertain sensible modifications to the interior and changes are already being planned for the materials, lighting and furnishings of the homes of four people with memory problems. It is planned to make changes supporting living at home for 20 such people in the Hämeenlinna area this year. A guide book is also in the making to facilitate planning such modifications.

There are currently some 115,000 people with dementia in Finland, with a further 13,200 new cases diagnosed every year. From the human, societal and economic perspective the need for places in institutions in the next few years will become an intolerable burden on the municipalities unless it is possible to make it easier for people with memory problems to cope in their home environments, alone or with help from their relatives and friends.

Individually designed modifications to the home can serve to support the demented individual's coping. Appropriate materials, colour choices and, for example, appropriate positioning of cupboards and furniture make it easier for demented people and also for those caring for them. Modifications in the home of a demented person should be done in the early stages of the disease when it is still possible to accept the modifications. Such work is one way to increase the forgetful old person's chances of continuing to live at home.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Demented people perceive their environment differently from healthy people. Many demented people retain their muscle memory, in which case the location of cupboard doors, for example, must remain the same. It is also advisable to keep the lighting low at night so that the person can retain a conception of the time of day. Regarding colours, red, for example, may indicate danger to demented people.

The method for assessing the need for modifications created on the development project headed by Sosiaalikehitys Oy is appropriate for use with those whose dementia is mild or moderate. On the project it is being used to tactfully ascertain in collaboration with patients, their relatives and carers what modifications will make it easier to continue living at home. These modifications are made by professionals in interior decoration and structural repairs and there is also follow up study of the effects. The guidebook compiled on the project supports the planning of interiors and modifications for the home of the demented person.

The research project entitled "Kuunteleva Koti" (= the home that hears) was enabled by the Ministry of the Environment, the Häme Centre for Expertise and the Finnish Housing Fair Co-operative Organisation and implemented by Sosiaalikehitys Oy and Technology Centre Innopark Oy representatives of the Gerotech Project and national experts in the care of dementia.

More information:

Sosiaalikehitys Oy
Management Director Juha Kaakinen
Tel. +358 3 628 1512
Technology Centre Innopark
Project Manager Kari Heljasvuo
Tel. +358 3 621 5256
Vanhustyön keskusliitto
Researcher Ulla Eloniemi-Sulkava
Tel. +358 50 518 0907

Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.
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