A clutter-free environment is not always beneficial for those suffering from dementia.

According to a University of East Anglia study Alzheimer sufferers may not be capable of functioning in a clean, clutter-free environment.

Researchers looked at whether those with dementia were more likely to prepare tea at home, unaffected by clutter, or in a clutter-free area.

They were surprised to find that people with mild dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter.

However, people with mild or severe dementia performed equally well in both environments.

Professor Eneida Moojishi from the Professor Eneida Mojishi from the UEA’s School of Health Sciences said that “the majority of people with dementia reside in their own homes and want to continue living at home as long as is possible.”

“So it’s really important to know how those suffering from dementia can be best supported at home. One possible method is to modify the physical environment to best suit their requirements.

“Dementia progresses and people lose their ability to complete daily tasks due to changes to their perceptual, cognitive and physical capabilities. The ability to perform daily tasks can then be improved by adapting the person’s environment.

“To this end, we wanted to examine the role of clutter in activity participation considering the possibility of de-cluttering in order to help people with dementia to remain independent.

“Environmental clutter” is defined as an excessive number of objects on surfaces or the presence of objects that aren’t necessary to complete a task.

“It is widely believed that a person with dementia will be more able to carry out daily tasks if their living space is clean and clutter-free.

“However there has been limited research to test this theory.

“We wanted to find out if clutter was negatively affecting those with dementia. We studied the ways that people in different stages of dementia performed carrying out daily tasks at home, with their usual clutter and in an environment free of clutter which was a specially-designed home research lab.”

Julieta Camino, an occupational therapy therapist and PhD student conducted the study with 65 participants. They were split into three groups comprising those with moderate, mild, or severe dementia.

They were asked to carry out routine tasks such as making a cup of tea and preparing an easy meal, at home and at UEA’s specially designed NEAT research bungalow – a fully furnished research facility that feels as a traditional bungalow.

Researchers analyzed the performance of the activities in both settings and also measured clutter in the homes of participants. Meanwhile the NEAT home environment was completely free of clutter.

We believed that the lack of clutter in our research bungalow would be a benefit in helping people who suffer from dementia with daily activities. We were wrong.

We were surprised to find that, in general, people with moderate dementia, in particular, performed better at home – even though their homes were considerably more messy than our research bungalow.

It didn’t appear to make any difference how cluttered the participant’s home was. The level of their cognitive abilities was the only factor that affected their ability to perform tasks at home. The people who had severe dementia faced the same issues as those in the research bungalow.

Julieta Camino from UEA’s School of Health Sciences

This research was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England programme (ARC EoE).

Sian Gregory, Research Information Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We can make assumptions about what can aid someone suffering from dementia who is living at home, like clearing out clutter so they can focus on things like making a cup of tea. This study shows that we might not always be correct with our thoughts.

Carers must rethink their beliefs in order to support someone with dementia in their daily lives. The Alzheimer’s Society funds a variety studies, such as this one to assess what is working for people suffering from dementia in the present and to find solutions for the future. “

Journal reference:

Camino, J., et al. (2021) A New and Cleaner Setting. How does clutter affect People With Dementia’s Ability to Perform Activities of Daily Living?. Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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