Mirrors and reflections can terrify seniors with dementia
Did you know that mirrors can be very disturbing for someone with dementia? For some people, seeing their reflection in a mirror can cause anxiety, anger, or even hysterical terror.
If your older adult starts acting irrationally, look around the room for mirrors or reflective surfaces. Differences in lighting could also accidentally create a mirror effect. For example, in the evening and night an uncovered window looks like a mirror because the inside of the house is bright and the outside is dark.
We explain why mirrors and dementia can cause problems and share 10 creative ideas for covering mirrors and eliminating them as sources of your older adult’s fear and anxiety.
Why are mirrors and dementia a bad combination?
Experts think that people with dementia fear mirrors because they don’t understand that they’re seeing a reflected image of themselves. They don’t recognize the person they see and think that a stranger has suddenly appeared near them.
Being startled by this “intruder” can make them so confused and upset that they react completely irrationally. They might resist your attempts to calm them or explain that they’re safe.
A fear of mirrors could also be a reason why some seniors with dementia refuse to bathe or are always agitated in the bathroom. They might be afraid because “that stranger” is always present for these personal activities.
10 ways to eliminate fear of mirrors in seniors with dementia
- Remove any unnecessary mirrors, like those in their room, and any decorative mirrors around the house.
- Draw all window drapes before the sun sets.
- Turn full-length standing mirrors around to face the wall and only turn them right-side out when you need to use them. Keep the turned-around mirror in a closet or behind an open door to make it even less noticeable.
- Drape a towel or large piece of cloth over wall-mounted mirrors.
- Attach adhesive pleated fabric shades (like these) at the top of a mirror to cover it like a window.
- Hide a mirror with a poster – soothing nature scenes like these are nice.
- Transform a mirror into pretty stained glass art with special adhesive window film – these flowers are lovely.
- Remove or cover up mirrored medicine cabinet doors. Make sure to remove any medications or sharp objects if the door is removed.
- Cover large mirrors (like mirrored closet doors) with self-adhesive contact paper in a soothing color and minimal pattern. Try simple designs like white wood panels, light maple wood, or plain light blue.
- Install a curtain rod (like this decorative one) above the mirror and hang curtains to cover the mirror like it’s a window. Open the drapes anytime you need to use the mirror. Semi-sheer curtains are light, but probably dense enough to hide reflections.
Recommended for you:
- 3 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home
- Why Experts Recommend Lying to Someone with Dementia
- 7 Tips to Get Someone with Alzheimer’s to Take a Bath
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Griswold Home Care
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