Clearing Out Clutter Might Not Help People With Dementia

MONDAY, Dec. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) — You might think de-cluttering would make it easier for people with dementia to do daily tasks. Not so, says a new study from the United Kingdom.

“It is generally assumed that a person with dementia will be better able to carry out daily tasks when their home space is tidy and clutter-free,” said Eneida Mioshi, a professor in the School of Health Sciences at University of East Anglia (UEA).

“However, there has been very little research to really test this hypothesis,” Mioshi added in a university news release.

The study included 65 people with either mild, moderate or severe dementia. They were asked to carry out daily tasks such as making a cup of tea or a simple meal.

Their ability to do these tasks was assessed in two locations: their own homes and in a fully furnished research facility meant to replicate a home setting. The research facility was free of clutter while the participants’ homes were left as they were and had varying amounts of clutter.

Occupational therapist Julieta Camino said, “We thought that the complete absence of clutter in our research bungalow would play a beneficial role in helping people with dementia with daily living activities. But we were wrong.” Camino is a PhD student in the UEA School of Health Sciences.

“We were surprised to find that, overall, people with moderate dementia, in particular, performed daily tasks better at home — even though their homes were significantly more cluttered than our research bungalow,” she said.

“And it didn’t seem to make any difference how cluttered the participant’s home was,” Camino added. “The only factor that contributed to how well they could carry out tasks at home was their level of cognition — with those with severe dementia encountering the same difficulties to perform the tasks at home and in the research bungalow.”

The study was published recently in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders.

Mioshi noted that the “majority of people with dementia live in their own home and usually want to remain living at home for as long as possible.”

That makes it important to know how people with dementia can be best supported at home, she added. “One possible route would be by adapting the physical environment to best suit their needs,” Mioshi said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about dementia.

SOURCE: University of East Anglia, news release, Nov. 26, 2021