The Hilden Style Awards, now in its fourth year, closes for entries tomorrow and this year, it introduced a brand new category in the form of ‘Most Stylish Small to Medium Care Home’. As more and more care homes now turn to interior design specialists for their design choices, how important are interior choices within care home design?
There is much to think about when considering design when creating a new care home or refurbishing an existing one. It’s highly important to consider the practical benefits of easy and accessible spaces but equally, a well designed and attractive setting will ensure the residents enjoy and make the most of their surroundings.
Interior design has started to play a major role in attracting new residents to care homes, however, clever design can significantly improve the quality of life of a resident. Juggling the need for purpose-built environments with desirable settings has, therefore, become increasingly important to care home owners.
Many care home residents suffer from physical or cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, so the care home design needs to reflect their specific requirements as well as providing a relaxing and calming environment designed to make their stay peaceful.
So, Can Care Home Design Improve the Quality of Life in a Care Home?
We believe that a detailed and carefully thought-out care home design and layout could enhance the quality of life of those living in care homes and so, our team of experts have put together a few suggestions of things to consider when evaluating the design of your care home setting.
Create Layouts which Build Confidence and Promote Independence
By creating areas where residents have clear views into and across communal areas can greatly assist in providing imperative navigational clues, therefore guiding residents around the building. This will build a greater sense of independence and freedom when manoeuvring around the building – without having to rely on the staff or nurses. Avoiding long corridors with many twists and turns is also much better for resident comfort as it reduces the risk of them becoming lost and disorientated whilst multi-level care homes can take advantage of colour-coding or theming the various levels to aid with direction.
Create Welcoming and Practical Entrances
First impressions really do count – whether it’s for new residents, existing ones or family members coming to visit. Reception areas and entrances should be welcoming and inviting whilst also providing a calming atmosphere so that if a resident does suffer from a cognitive or visual impairment they can still feel safe and secure in the environment whilst putting their family’s mind at rest at the same time.
Use Memorable Focal Points and Clear Signage
Commonly, those who live in care homes can sometimes become confused and lost and, in many cases, they are often too proud or embarrassed to seek help or assistance. Removing confusion by introducing memorable focal points and clear signage can help to enhance their quality of life by giving them back their independence that many residents can feel lost without in a care home. Easy to read signage, including using dark contrasting colours against light backgrounds, work really well to give people a gentle hint or reminder of where something is.
Visual clues such as artwork, displays or murals around the building can again help to cement their sense of direction and a familiar sight may jog their memory as to their whereabouts in a building.
Design Inspiring Communal Spaces
Lounges which feel domestic and homely can ensure residents are comfortable and content whilst being in the care home setting. Furniture layouts should aid interaction between people and should not be set up to encourage isolation or a constant focus on the TV. Allowing flexibility in the positioning of furniture can also help to encourage varied activities which take place in the communal areas helping them to feel like part of a community.
Choose Appropriate Furniture
Care home furniture should be carefully chosen and sourced to ensure it meets the varying needs of the residents. Comfortable and varied seat heights will ensure the resident can choose which one is more comfortable for them and a choice of seat heights will ensure they are easily able to sit down and get up with minimal assistance. Also, chairs with contrasting seat and arm colours may help people with visual impairments easily differentiate the outline of the seat position.
Specify Correct Lighting and Light Fittings
More than just increasing the risks of slips and trips, poor lighting can actually increase anxiety and uncertainty in people. Lighting is particularly important to those suffering from dementia and sight loss. Care homes should make the most of natural lighting, not least to minimise electricity costs, but also as it provides an excellent colour rendition. Keep windows clear of heavy drapes or blinds to aid visual stimulation and opening patio doors ensure occupants are exposed to natural light and fresh air – thus promoting a good biological rhythm. Natural light promotes well-being and increases the levels of Vitamin D found in one’s system so making the most of it should really be high up on a care home’s agenda.
Select the Right Materials
Flame retardant fabrics to be used within bedding, curtains and pillows are essential within a care home to minimise the risk and spread of possible fires whilst fit-for-purpose fabrics and materials should be used throughout the design. Furniture should be robust, safe and to a high quality whilst remaining fire and waterproof. Utilising a ‘home-away-from-home’ aesthetic, care homes should be moving towards a hospitality style and away from the clinical environments that were traditionally prevalent. Matching wardrobes, cabinets and even headboards provide a unified, cohesive look which allows for comfort as well as style.
Make Exterior Areas Accessible
With a recent shift towards wellness and wellbeing as opposed to clinical care, the outdoors and exterior spaces are being celebrated and care home owners are looking to make them a focal point where possible. By incorporating visually stimulating views out onto a landscaped garden, water feature or nature, the design should increasingly focus on making the most of attractive areas and taking advantage of what is freely available. These beautiful benefits also help occupants to escape, even if momentarily, from their conditions and by connecting the outdoor space to the indoor space through easily accessible doors, it can ultimately help people to feel human again.
Care homes for people with special care requirements can heavily benefit from experience and specialised interior design. Not only is there a huge shift towards making healthcare establishments seem more attractive, there is an increased focus on making them feel more attractive for those who ultimately use them day in, day out.
It’s important that experience of interior design services are considered as the specifics of each site, occupant needs, the scale of development, types of services on offer, care to be provided, budgets, the brief and materials can be discussed with a trusted and knowledgeable interior designer, in great detail.
Are you a care home group with less than ten homes or an independent care home? Do you think your care home is stylish yet practical?
If so, we’d love to hear from you so send in your pictures and enter our annual Hilden Style Awards. With fantastic prizes up for grabs our judges will be looking for those ‘unsung heroes’ within the care sector – but be quick because you’ve only got one day left! The Hilden Style Awards close on Friday 2nd September; to submit your entry, please click here.