Dementia Friends logo

Tuesday November 29th marks Giving Tuesday, a worldwide initiative aimed at encouraging people and businesses to give something back following the frenzied shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

As part of Giving Tuesday, Vision are proud to announce their Dementia Friends status; a UK-based programme in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society aimed at tackling the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding dementia and its associated symptoms.

Vision’s specialist product brand Whitakers has long-been used by some of the most renowned healthcare establishments around the country and our specialist interior design team have worked with multiple bodies to delivery creative textile solutions that improve a resident’s experience and quality of life.

Drawing upon specialist advice from Stirling University, we’ve helped to transform care homes and healthcare facilities, creating calm and familiar designs alongside tailored functionality and visual stimulation, and have even developed our own range of dementia-friendly furniture putting safety and comfort at the top of the agenda.

Having previously worked with Bupa, the Anchor Trust and One Housing Group, we’re proud to support dementia awareness and we’re proud to call ourselves a Dementia Friend.

Victor Vision Dementia Friends

As a Dementia Friend, we understand that there are many myths and misconceptions about dementia and we hope to lend a helping hand to the Alzheimer’s Society in order for them to achieve the goal of making homes and wards more comfortable for residents whilst also ensuring people with dementia are able to live independently for longer.

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, we’ve put together a short guide on designing for dementia to ensure understanding of the symptoms of dementia and how the design and feel of a care home can be conducive to an improved quality of life.

How to Design for Dementia

Moving away from home into an unfamiliar setting can be a difficult experience for anyone and these feelings of agitation can be heightened in the case of someone with dementia.

A well-designed care home needs to not only look appealing but it should ensure that it is practical in serving the needs of the residents. Dementia-friendly design can help to reduce the use of anti-psychotic medication, prevent falls and trips, promotes nutrition and health, promotes a greater level of independence and should also encourage social interaction and engagement.

The design features of a care home differ substantially to those of a hotel or restaurant and generally a well-designed care home needs to take into account five main principles:

Legibility

Care home design needs to take into account legibility for its residents. Dementia symptoms include the progressive worsening of sensory stimulations including sight, hearing, touch and smell as well cognitive and physical impairments.

Design for dementia should take into account these factors and provide an environment which is free from clutter to reduce the risk of falls as well as safe and level surfaces free from garish colours and bold patterns.

People living with dementia can sometimes confuse stripes and shadows for a change in level and thus may not feel comfortable when accessing these areas or it may cause them to avoid them altogether.

Additionally, a matte flooring finish as opposed to shiny surfaces can help put residents at ease and encourage them to keep mobile as it prevents the floor from appearing wet or slippery.

Spaces should include appropriate lighting which can be adjusted depending on the type of day and appropriate walking aids such as contrasting handrails to assist those suffering with visual impairments or physical ailments.

Orientation

One easily recognisable symptom of dementia is that of a loss of orientation. Categorised by confusion surrounding the location, the date, the timeframe and even who they are or who those around them are all add to the disorientation and agitation one may feel.

In order to promote wellbeing and reduce confusion and anxiety, it’s essential that a care home is designed with orientation in mind. As dementia is progressive and gets gradually worse over time, it’s important that items or props which can add to confusion are easily removable such as mirrors.

Items from reminiscence therapy such as memory or sensory cushions can help to provide a sense of nostalgia and awareness to one’s situation whilst using internal landmarks and artwork can help to promote wayfinding.

Items such as large clocks, artworks reflecting varying times of the year, calendars and photos of local landmarks all support orientation whilst rooms and communal areas with plenty of natural light serve to provide visual clues as to the time of day to decrease the risk of the resident wandering off.

Wayfinding

Those with dementia frequently have difficulty with reaching their required destinations and can lose their sense of direction in even the most familiar places. It’s crucial that, to avoid confusion and mental anguish, clear wayfinding is provided throughout the care home in order to support the independence of a resident to locate and reach their required place.

Long, repetitive corridors should almost always be avoided to prevent monotony and misperception. Clear objects and props can be utilised in order to act as a reference point for example, pictures of the local area which have a special meaning to the residents or visual clues such as pictograms or photographic labels also enhance wayfinding.

Additionally, personalisation on private areas has increased in recent years for example, introducing resident name or photo on the entrance to the doorway to introduce nostalgia and clear identification. This also encourages the resident to differentiate between private and public areas with ease.

Familiarity

In order for a resident to feel comfortable and at home in an otherwise unfamiliar setting, it’s important to introduce elements of familiarity throughout the care home.

Bathrooms should be designed using traditional not sensory taps to reduce the risk of confusion and upset as well as traditional cutlery and tableware in order to feel recognisable and familiar.

Dining areas and lounge areas should be large enough to provide a community atmosphere but small enough so that they are not overwhelming and designed in order to feel like a domestic sitting or dining room.

Introducing garden space is ideal for encouraging a space that’s welcoming and recognisable and choosing plants and greenery based upon their prior familiarity to the resident. Plants also encourage residents to engage in physical activity through planting, touching.

Meaningful Activity

As people grow older their ability to walk and move around also decreases. As well as this they may also suffer from cognitive degeneration affecting their memory, communication and motor functions. It’s therefore important, within a care home, to provide residents with a space that is beneficial in engagement and providing a non-institutional feel.

Well-defined routes and passages should be clear and free of obstructions that lead to places of interest such as communal spaces, activity rooms or outdoor areas. There should be a sufficient amount of outdoor space to encourage physical activity as well as landscaped gardens or gardening facilities for the residents to enjoy.

Rooms created for socialising are a huge bonus as they aid a community feeling within the care home as well providing a comfortable space for residents to enjoy with their family as well as areas where work-related activities can be undertaken, such as a shop or something based upon their past interests and work.

Vision is committed, to transforming the standards of safety, comfort and quality through its specialist Whitaker range of products and specialised dementia design services. To find out more about what we can do for you, please contact us today.