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Dementia friendly environment

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

The environments in which we live and work in have a profound effect on our physical and psychological well-being, this is no different for people living in care environments. In fact, the environment in which someone with dementia is living can greatly affect them. Dementia friendly interior design can make a real difference in improving the quality of life for care home residents that live with dementia. There are a number of aspects that need to be considered in order to make an environment dementia friendly.

Lighting – Good lighting is essential for residents living with dementia. Studies by The University of Sterling show that dementia appropriate lighting in care homes can lead to a reduction in the number and severity of falls, improved user orientation and participation, reduction in distressed behaviour and improved sleep and overall health. It is recommended that daylight should be used wherever possible and light fittings with higher light output ratio and bulbs that provide a warm light as opposed to a cold white light.

Furniture – Furniture in dementia care homes should be fit for purpose, all furniture should be robust, supportive and recognisable. It is important that the style of the chair is recognisable as a chair, this avoids confusion for dementia residents. Wardrobes should have large handles and light interior where possible. That being said different furniture should be used for different activities.

The positioning of furniture is also important in a care environment. Chairs should be placed near each other to allow optimised socialisation and beds should be positioned so that the resident can see the bathroom.

“Seating can give visual variety, tactile stimulation, opportunity for increased socialisation” - Wagland, Peachment (1997).

Colours – People that live with dementia can find it difficult to see colour properly. This needs to be considered when designing the interior for a person with dementia. Colours with LRV’s that sit within an 8-point difference may be seen as the same and colours with anything greater are likely to be seen as contrasting. The misuse of colour and patterns can cause stress and confusion for someone living with dementia. Adjoining flooring should be tonally very similar, and it is important to avoid patterns on walls and curtains.

Flooring – The flooring used in a dementia friendly environment is incredibly important. Floor surfaces that are shiny may appear wet and slippery to someone with dementia and carpets that have patterns in them can often be misinterpreted. Plain carpets are best because they have slip resistant values and are a soft surface that will avoid confusion.

Noise – Noise should be kept to a minimum in any care environments. Unwanted noise can lead to sleep disturbance, increased risk of cardiovascular disorders (e.g. hypertension and ischaemic heart disease), interrupted concentration and hearing impairments including tinnitus. For residents living with dementia, unwanted noise can have a number of other affects. It can be detrimental to their concentration and co-ordination and can lead to confusion if they cannot see where the noise is coming from.

“Freedom from the harassing effects of noise is one of the finest qualities a building can possess” - Knudsen and Harris.

Signage and a wayfinding strategy– The final aspect to consider when creating a dementia friendly environment is appropriate signage. Dementia signage uses a combination of colour contrast theory, light reflectance value, pictorial images and words to augment understanding. This can be used alongside other wayfinding methods to aid dementia residents.

How do you create a dementia friendly environment and how do we design for dementia at Catalyst?

Now we have covered the importance of a dementia friendly environment and the aspects that need to be considered we thought it would be beneficial to cover how to create a dementia friendly environment and what we do it at Catalyst.

Firstly, we wanted to mention why dementia design matters so much to us. We genuinely care about the residents that we design for and we know that when we get it right, we can make a fundamental difference to their lives. Design means more than simply shaping the physical environment to counter the impairments that come alongside dementia. It involves creating a space where the residents feel safe and at home.

We have mentioned this plenty of times before, but we will never stop drawing attention to the importance of interior design that is specific to dementia residents. We specialise in interior design for dementia care homes and we are only 100% satisfied when we know that our interiors have contributed to the enhanced quality of life for the residents. In fact, we believe so strongly in this that all our staff have undertaken University of Stirling dementia training. We know our designers are already the best at what they do and so the training just ensures that within their design, they incorporate every sensory and visual aid, every supportive item that stimulates the senses and enjoyment of the residents.

Here at Catalyst we also take pride in the fact that with over 20 years of experience in the industry we have acquired the knowledge to create our own wayfinding strategy. We create tasteful wayfinding points that are fully fit for purpose, whilst adding a special touch to the aesthetic of a building.

Another way that we achieve high quality dementia-enabling design by following the seven basic design principles. These design principles allow us to create spaces that dementia patients can feel comfortable in, allowing for a happier more fulfilled life. For more information about these design principles keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming content.

Thank you for reading, we really wanted to get across the importance of dementia friendly environments and we hope it has been an interesting and informative read.

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