The importance of good signage

  • A sign is an orientation aid and should be designed as such. 
  • Dementia-friendly signs are designed in the same way as road signs – use of colour, font, images, non-reflective surfaces, positioning) 
  • A high percentage of patient falls occur when searching for a toilet 
  • A person with dementia can experience levels of anxiety 8 x higher than that of someone without the condition, resulting in an increased risk of incontinence, falls and agitation. Incontinence is likely to impact on a person’s levels of hydration and nutrition and overall well being 
  • Being unable to find a toilet (and use it) can result in infections such as UTIs and an increased requirement for laxatives. Antibiotics and laxatives can both have an impact on appetite 
  • Misunderstood aggression, incontinence, falls and dehydration can all lead to incorrect diagnoses of deterioration due to the dementia and result in increased medications that ultimately can lead to depression, poorer quality of life and reduced life expectancy

What makes a good sign

  • Use of colour – toilet signs should be something totally different from other signs for easy recognition . 
  • Use of colour – yellow signs are the most popular in acute settings for toilet signs. When a person loses the ability to distinguish colour, pale colours fade first and then on the primary spectrum blues and greens, leaving red, yellow and orange. Factually, for most of us, red it the colour we see from farthest away and the last colour a person with dementia will recognise. However, in an acute setting, yellow is often the more accepted colour of choice. 
  • Colour contrast – there should be at least 30 points of contrast between colours put together. Light reflectance values (LRVs determine how much light is reflected and therefore the visible contrast between different colours) 
  • Correct use of font – a subject that has been researched and all our signs use the best possible font available. Also words should be not written in capital letters as we read by shape and capital letters make rectangles that all look the same. This can cause word blindness 
  • Images – although not everyone likes the image of a toilet on the sign, there is no doubt that it works better than anything else. People living with dementia clearly state during conferences that the do not recognise male and female symbols and want to see the toilet image. 
  • Antiglare materials must be used to avoid any unnecessary confusion or misinterpretation of a sign ie TOILET or TO LET 
  • Positioning – due to a number of physical changes, all door signs should be at 1.2m above the ground. Flag signs are great for long distance viewing down corridors (when good use of colour is essential), but must be used in conjunction with door signs in the line of sight. Cleaning – all signs must meet hygiene (AND Fire regulation) standards and we ensure all products are designed to comply

Finally...

If it’s important information, include it on the official sign, ie “patient use only” Do not clutter up doors and surfaces with laminated notices stuck up with bluetac! People do not see the notices so certainly don’t read them. Even staff are often oblivious to what is cluttering up their environment and when observing patients and visitors on site, it very quickly becomes apparent, most of them are a waste of space, money and effort.