Using Colors to Help Manage Alzheimer’s Disease

For people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), the world around them significantly impacts how they engage, react, and enjoy life. Caregivers often seek supportive tips and tricks for behavior management, but did you know you can modify and even prevent behaviors associated with dementia by using color? Many studies have been conducted on light as well as color with varying results. However, most experts agree that the use of colors, especially for someone living with dementia, can help in improving their quality of life.

Red is a bold color that can elicit certain behaviors when used in the right way. Research indicates that red increases the perceived temperature of a room. For example, if a person is often cold when the air temperature is already warm to others, try “warming” the room with red blankets or pillows. When painted on walls, red can make a very large space appear smaller, and if the color is painted above eye level, it may encourage someone to leave that space. Lastly, red can stimulate an appetite for someone living with dementia.

Is your loved one not eating enough? Try serving dinner from a red plate. Studies have shown that serving meals on red plates can increase appetite by as much as 33 percent in those with ADRD.

Blue is often associated with peace and calm (think of a blue sky or ocean), and research shows that the color blue can lower blood pressure and anxiety. Painting a room blue can not only create a more calming environment but it can cause a room to appear larger. Unlike light blue, dark blue can aid in appetite suppression for a person with ADRD. If your loved one is overeating, or a physician is encouraging weight loss, try serving meals on dark blue plates as a few studies show that this method resulted in up to a 28 percent reduction in unnecessary overeating.

Green is symbolic of rebirth and renewal. Green has been proven to reduce central nervous system activity, creating a sense of calming, making it the most restful of all the colors. Like red, when painted on the wall, green can make a small room appear larger. Most importantly, lime green is a vibrant color the eye can more easily see as it ages. Lime green has been proven to be effective in bringing attention to important people, places, and things. Some senior-living facilities dress caregivers in lime green shirts so that residents with ADRD can more easily identify people who can help.

At home, you can use lime green to create visual cues. For example, if your loved one is safe to use a microwave but forgets how to turn it on, try labeling the start button with lime green tape. Or, to reduce falls in the bathroom, try using a green toilet seat to provide contrast.

Black is a color to pay special attention to if your loved one has been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. These patients often perceive black as scary or intimidating when worn from the kneecap down. This suggests that dressing in pants and shoes of a lighter color may help prevent difficult interactions. In addition, be sure to check your front door mat because, if it is black, your loved one may perceive it as a hole in the ground. Swap it out with a lighter-colored mat that also contrasts with the surrounding spaces.

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The Orlando Senior Help Desk is another program of Jewish Pavilion Senior Services. The Help Desk, which can be reached at 407-678-9363 or, helps thousands of callers navigate their way through the daunting senior maze, alleviating caregiver stress while giving advice on all types of elder issues.