Ten considerations for creating a dementia friendly home
Alzheimer’s progressively erodes memory and other brain functions. Talking about Alzheimer’s and dementia helps reduce the stigma and fear surrounding the condition., affecting over 850,000 people. And with the UK’s ageing population these numbers are expected to increase, reaching 1 million by 2025.
Designing a functional and stylish space where dementia patients can feel calm and comfortable is no easy task. All features of a room must be considered before manufacture and installation can start. Years of careful research into dementia friendly furniture designs have given us a good understanding of the ways spaces can be enhanced for both dementia patients, visitors and staff.
The furniture you choose for your care home can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of dementia patients. A distinctive piece of furniture like a cabinet or coffee table can help dementia residents identify specific locations, particularly in spaces they may find disorientating, such as corridors.
However, rooms that are too full of furniture can be overwhelming. The materials you use can also have an impact. Contrasting dark shades and light shades can help patients better distinguish furniture from the floor and walls.
Colour can change the way patients act and feel within a space, evoking an emotional response in many cases. This makes it all the more important to decorate and furnish with care.
Reds and gold stimulate feelings of sociability and appetite, making them particularly suited to communal areas. Pale tones and shades of blue and green are more relaxing and meditative for bedrooms. Dark colours and very bright colours like yellow have some positive effects on mood but may be overwhelming when overused.
As well as larger items of furniture, smaller pieces and soft furnishings can be used to make daily life easier for dementia patients. Soft furnishings make a space feel warmer and more like home, and simple patterns can add interest to stimulate residents’ senses. Using heavier fabrics for floors and windows is also beneficial in dampening outside noise, which could be distressing for patients.
The choices you make regarding surfaces and flooring are important considerations as they change how easily dementia patients can navigate their home. Dementia patients often shuffle their feet, so even the smallest incline or decline in a room can result in a fall.
Materials like high gloss woods might appear wet to a dementia resident, and a change in carpet colour can be misconstrued as a change in level. All of these considerations must be accounted for when designing your floorplan.
Lighting makes a difference in any space, but it’s particularly important when designing for dementia patients. To accommodate those with poor eyesight and sensory impairment, it’s important to consider a range of lighting solutions. By incorporating LED lighting into our cabinets and wardrobe units, furniture can be made more visible and easier to access.
It’s important when designing a facility to consider the residents’ conditions, state of mind and the way they will use and interact with the building.
Dementia can result in misinterpretations and confusion. For example, patients might misinterpret a change in floor colour as a step.
It’s confusions like this that often make a patient feel disorientated and scared, so taking these impairments and perceptions into consideration when designing a space and choosing wall and floor finishes is crucial.
One key aspect of designing for dementia is making sure that anything important to the patient is highly visible. This includes things like handrails and doors.
Colour differentiation plays a key role in making these items stand out.
If a white door is set against a white wall then many dementia sufferers will simply ignore it.
This tactic works well in diverting patients away from inaccessible areas, such as staff offices or plant areas. However, bold and distinctive colours are then used to highlight the items residents should notice or use, such as doorways and handrails.
As well as being a physical support for patients, handrails can be considered a psychological support too, making a patient feel more secure and confident on their feet.
One of the leading therapeutic approaches in dementia care, reminiscence therapy helps patients communicate both with other sufferers and with their carer. As dementia mainly affects short term memory, reminiscence therapy gets patients to use their long term memory and recall stories from their past.
One design trend that lends itself to reminiscence therapy, is the careful use of imagery on interior walls and doors. This imagery doesn’t just stop at signage – with advancements in printing technology you can print on almost anything. In some cases parts of walls have featured local scenery such as woodlands or sea views, as well as historical images of the local area, transporting residents back to a place or time that they knew.