The Journey to creating a Care Home dementia-friendly environment

The immediate surroundings can have a huge impact on the quality of life of residents. The right environment can help promote meaningful interaction and purposeful activities between the residents and the staff. Whereas a bad environment can cause anxiety and stress. Understanding the residents’ beliefs and culture is an essential part to getting the environment right.

Creating an environment that promotes independence

Design features, such as similar doors along a corridor, lack of focal points and poorly planned signage can all result in a poor environment. By taking into consideration the principles below and using multiple well-planned way-finding techniques, incontinence, agitation, aggression, slips, trips and falls can all be reduced.

Creating a dementia-friendly communal area

Communal areas within a care home are the backbone of the home, and should be laid out to make it easy for residents to find their way around the building. It is essential that residents are able to locate their own private space and identify how to get to a toilet from wherever they are in the building. Residents should know where and how to find help and ask for assistance. Creating different seating areas offers residents choice of where to sit and encourages engagement with the environment and more social interaction

Signage placement

The placement of signage is important. A person with dementia will not notice signs that are placed at higher levels on doors or walls. Ideally, signs should be placed to accommodate the downward gaze of a person with dementia. Ideally position at 1.2m above the ground.

Good dementia-friendly signage will use pictures and words. Signs should be bright in colour and a contrast to the wall on which they are to be positioned.

Unhelpful stimulation may distress and confuse those with dementia. Minimising the number of signs (and laminated notices) will help draw attention to what’s important.

Create an environment that supports all the senses

As well as looking at the layout of the home, having orientation cues that aid way-finding can help residents understand where they are and enable them to navigate their way to where they want to be. An environment that makes it difficult for a resident to orientate will limit their independence and opportunities for social interaction. Colours and lighting play an important part in way-finding. The more light there is whether it’s artificial or natural the easier residents will find it to orientate the home.

Create landmarks that act as uniquely identifiable reference points

Enhance positive stimulation to enable residents to touch, hear and smell things. Introduce sensory and tactile surfaces. Use wall murals, music and interactive furniture to help residents understand where they are and what they can do.

Murals can also help provide a reference point/destination to help with  way-finding.

Support movement and engagement

Ensure areas are easily identifiable and seating arrangements are appropriate.  A café with small clusters of tables and chairs with drinks and snacks available.  A bus stop for residents who may feel lost or confused – a great place for a chat. A Newsagents or book shop is in a quiet area and has just a few seats and occasional tables with newspapers, magazines and books easily accessible.

Preventing residents from using exit doors

The use of light enabling window vinyls on fire doors, obscuring exit routes, have proven very successful in creating pleasant pathways but without the agitation of residents trying to leave the building and  the additional distress caused to all residents when the alarms are set off.