People with dementia have special flooring needs. Many develop gait and balance problems and walk with a shuffle. And, as the person loses the ability to housekeep, items strewn in the walkway can be easily tripped over – like canes, shoes, newspapers, and extension cords.
Many kitchen flooring features increase fall risk.
For example, floor mats can absorb water and make standing more comfortable, but a person can easily slip when a cotton mat bunches up, or trip if a foot becomes caught on a thick mat that has no beveled edge. Then, too, glossy or waxy finishes are slippery underfoot, and shiny floors reflect glare, making it harder to see.
People with dementia will lose housekeeping skills at some point in the disease, including keeping the kitchen clean. Hire a housekeeper, if needed, to reduce fall risk due to clutter, water spills, grease, or food on the floor.
Someone who shuffles or uses a walker can easily trip on area carpets. Others have low vision and perceptual problems that increase fall risk. For example, a dark carpet border may be perceived as a hole, and the person may attempt to step over the border or they may be uncertain of their step when walking on patterned carpeting.
Many people with dementia develop a shuffling gait, thereby increasing tripping risk, especially when walking or pushing a walker over a high doorsill.
Things to Avoid
- Plush carpeting is dangerous on stairways, as the foot sinks into the carpeting and possibly becomes “caught,” causing the person to trip.
- Do not use the same color carpeting for the stairs and the top and bottom landing. This makes it hard to tell where the steps end and the landings begin; many people may think there’s another step and a fall can occur. Avoid very dark colors on the steps and landings, as the person may think this area is a hole into which they may fall.
- Plastic treads easily rip or pull off and can cause a fall if the person’s foot becomes caught in the tread.
- Oriental runners can be beautiful but patterned carpets of any kind can make stair climbing treacherous and confusing for someone with dementia.