Dementia Friendly Signage Guide

Signage is a key part of an orientation strategy, particularly for those living with dementia. Easy navigation around unfamiliar places such as hospitals contributes towards a reduction in falls, agitation, and incontinence.

Road signage is a perfect example of clever design, and the same principles should be followed when designing signs for people living with dementia – simple and consistent use of colours, shapes, sizes, fonts, images, the use of non-reflective materials and ideal positioning for optimum visibility.

The principles of good signage design

Use of colour

There is no such thing as a dementia-friendly colour. The focus should be on ensuring a good colour contrast. This can either be achieved by using shades of colours (i.e., light blue and dark blue), which is quite straight forward, or by combining colours using light reflectance values (LRVs) which is more complicated.

All colours are on the LRV scale (Low Reflectance Values) and for a person with sight impairment to successfully differentiate between two contrasting colours, there must be at least thirty points of difference. For example, a shade of red with an LRV of 40% would look the same as a shade of green with an LRV of 40%. A shade of red with an LRV of 30% with a shade of green with an LRV of 70% should provide a marked contrast.

The only exception to the use of colour contrast is when deciding on the colour for toilet door signage. Unlike other destinations, finding the toilet is time critical and therefore use a bold colour that is easy see, such as yellow.

Shape 

Shape can be another good clue in helping to identify a specific sign, which is particularly important for ones such as the Toilet.

Font

We learn to read and write using upper- and lower-case letters and scan rather than read every word. The correct use of fonts is therefore essential for easy reading.

Images

Dementia affects people in different ways and at different times along their pathway. The use of images is very useful for people who lose their ability to read, where English is a second language and for some with learning disabilities.

Materials

Dementia-friendly signs should have a non-reflective surface to ensure easy to read

Positioning

The ideal height for a sign is 1.2m-1.4m above the ground. As we age, we can lose up to six” inches in height and look downward towards the floor more. People in wheelchairs also benefit by signage at the correct height

What can you expect to achieve by putting the right signs in place?

  • A reduction in agitation and distressed behaviours (as the environment is easy to navigate and recognise)
  • A reduction in slips, trips, and falls (easier to navigate to a destination and reduced agitation leads to fewer lapses in concentration and subsequent incidents)
  • A reduction in incontinence episodes (the toilets are easy to find – and use)
  • Promotion of independence (less reliance on others)
  • Promotion of confidence (more likely to engage with the environment and socially interact with other people if they can navigate familiar surroundings)
  • Promotion of independence and dignity (reducing length of stay)
  • Increased nutrition and hydration (increased activity improves appetite and reduces the risk of UTIs)

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