Guidance and tips for staff to help people with dementia

2. The physical environment

Places that are noisy, busy or that have sounds that might be distracting can make people with dementia uneasy. Some people can also have specific visual problems in addition to the normal ageing processes that can affect how clearly they can see. They may not recognise colours, faces or objects or have problems with spatial awareness (judging the distance between things and where you are in relation to them). This can lead to getting lost or disorientated or bumping into things. Bear in mind the following points:

  • Objects that are shiny, patterned or reflective can cause people with dementia to mistake what they are seeing.
  • Features such as lighting, mirrors, shadows, steps and patterned walls and floors might cause problems for some people with dementia.
  • If someone with dementia has increased difficulty with reading or processing visual information they may not recognise instructions or signs, be able to read maps or timetables, or know where they should put things. What is obvious to you may not be so to them.
  • There may be a wide variety of noises in your workplace such as alarms, electronic equipment, music and other voices – be aware of how this might affect someone.

More information:

We have a publication called 'How to help people with dementia: A guide for customer-facing staff', which you can download for free or buy on our online shop.

Download the guide

Buy the guide