Making a house a home

The physical environment can have a big impact on the lives of people living with dementia.

The symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, confusion and difficulty learning new things, means that people with dementia may forget where they are and where things are.

If designed right, care homes can promote independence and can be supportive and enhancing environments.

However, if the right approach isn’t taken, care home environments can become confusing and institutionalised, where routine and task driven practice takes precedence over the promotion and delivery of care based on attachment, comfort and inclusion.

Person-centred care for people living with dementia

For people living with dementia, person-centred care should be at the heart and centre of all care planning and delivery, especially when someone moves into a care home.

It’s important to know and understand each individual’s own abilities, beliefs, values, likes and dislikes, both past and present, which can then inform every interaction and experience the person has when living in a care setting.

A quality person-centred care model should also include understanding and reference to social psychology, and the impact that the environment and day to day interactions surrounding the person living with dementia can have on their wellbeing.

Dementia-friendly environments in care homes

Often, when an individual moves into a care home, the new surrounding does not immediately feel like a home, as the walls and décor aren’t familiar.

It’s important that care home teams create spaces around the home that feel more familiar to the person.

They should encourage the individual and their loved ones to bring items of furniture, mementos and photos that were present in their previous home setting. This can help to make bedrooms feel more like a place to call home.

The care home should provide an environment that facilitates orientation and independence, as opposed to confusion and reliance on others.

Here are some of the ways that care homes can do this.

  • Signage

Signage should indicate where important rooms such as toilets, the person’s bedroom and the dining room.

Signs should be attached to the doors they refer to, rather than adjacent walls, and positioned slightly lower than normal. They should use a bold font and good contrast between the text and background.

  • Flooring

Flooring should be plain and flush to aid navigation and promote independence.

Avoid patterned carpets as they may trigger an illusion of insects or mice running around, which can be unsafe. Similarly, avoid reflective or slippery surfaces which may cause confusion, and rugs or mats which could lead to trips or falls.

  • Navigation

Research shows that people living with dementia use landmarks to navigate their way around.

This can be especially helpful for important rooms such as the dining room, lounge, garden or the person’s bedroom.

These landmarks should be attractive, interesting and recognisable, such as paintings or plants.

  • Communal spaces

People with dementia should be encouraged to participate in the everyday tasks they would normally do in their own home, such as cooking, washing up, cleaning, folding laundry and gardening.

This will help to foster a sense of ‘home’ and belonging, and give more meaning to each day.

Communal spaces in care homes should be accessible for those living with dementia. For example, kitchens should have a clear lay-out, in which everything is easy to find and use.

Exemplar Health Care is a leading provider of specialist nursing care for adults living with complex and high acuity needs. They have a number of services that specialise in supporting adults living with dementia. Visit: www.exemplarhc.com



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