Alzheimer's / Dementia

2/25/2021 | By Kari Smith

When it comes to caring for a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss, know that room design and decoration can have a significant effect on a patient. When you decorate for memory care (whether in your home, or in a memory care facility), do so in a way that promotes your loved one’s dignity and sense of independence, while minimizing frustration and confusion.

For every design element, consider whether it will provide a sense of peace, calm, safety, and well-being.


It is important to recognize that every memory care patient is different, and circumstances can even vary from day to day for an individual patient. Seniors in dependent living situations sometimes complain that decisions are always made for them. If possible, involve them in simple choices, such as the color palette of their room.

What are their favorite colors? Are they soothed or agitated by bright solid colors? Are warm pastel colors more calming to them? Whatever palette you choose, contrast colors to break up monotony, to assist those who suffer from spatial awareness issues, and to differentiate between nearby objects.

For example, break up the flat expanse of wall color with curtains or bed linens in contrasting colors. In the bathroom, use one color of towels, a different color of washcloths, and a contrasting wall color.

Patterns and Textures

Use simple, calming patterns. Seascapes, nature, and animals are good options if these things are of interest to your loved one.When you decorate for memory care, avoid bold or busy patterns, which may be agitating or may make your loved one feel closed in; for example, vertical stripes. Look for simple, comfortable textures for any textiles in the room, and choose fabrics that are easy to clean and launder, especially for seniors who struggle with continence issues.


Lighting should be soft and natural, and should support the body’s sleep cycles. Avoid harsh, bright, twinkling, or blinking lights, as these may cause confusion and agitation in memory care patients. Consider investing in motion sensor lights for bedrooms and bathrooms to provide an extra element of safety and an increased sense of independence.

Art & Décor

Use artwork and décor pieces that are personal and familiar. Choose a theme based on your loved one’s interests, passions, or hobbies. Use pictures of family members or beloved pets, as these can be comforting and also great conversation starters that jog the memory. Consider using vintage or antique pieces such as a rotary phone, a vintage record player, or antique lamps or furniture pieces. Even using posters or antique signage or advertisements can evoke memories of “the good ol’ days.” Consider painting or installing a peel and stick mural to liven up a dreary space.  Turn a sterile-looking bathroom into a spa with a wall depicting a beach scene or a lovely skyline.


Design should be simple and comfortable. Furniture pieces should be uncrowded and small scale. Position furniture in a way that it encourages human engagement, whether it is chairs at a table, or a recliner facing an open window – anything that discourages sedentary behavior such as facing a TV. Consider any issues with spatial awareness, and be sure to clear the room of tripping hazards. Cover hard floors with large area rugs in contrasting colors, but avoid small rugs that may be a tripping hazard or confusing to the eye. Consider heavy window treatments that will help to muffle outside noises, which can be confusing or disorienting.

Be sure that important objects that receive constant use – such as light switches, closet doors, and entrances – are accented and easy to find. Use unique artwork or a bright door mural to mark your loved one’s room in a memory care unit, to differentiate from other doors and avoid a confusing entrance into another patient’s room.

When you decorate for memory care, it will not slow the progression of these diseases. But it will help to maintain care and minimize frustration for both caregiver and memory patient.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith