Well designed and well-placed dementia signs support independence

Toilet dementia sign

We fail to appreciate how significant signage is in our everyday lives. It allows us to interpret, understand and manage both new and familiar environments.

Every person has a ‘cognitive map’, which is a mental picture of the places that are familiar to us. When an environment isn’t familiar, however, we become reliant on signs to help us navigate. Living with dementia makes any new environment very daunting and even familiar places can become unfamiliar leading to distress and agitation.

With the clever use of signage, you can help those with declining cognitive abilities to make the right decisions when finding their way around, as well as helping to maintain independence.

As outlined by University of Stirling research, “The care environment can be made more supportive and enabling with quite simple additions. The first is to make sure that what is important is highly visible.”

Under these circumstances, signage fulfils a crucial role. By installing appropriate signage in clearly visible places, many of these issues can be alleviated or dismissed altogether. Stirling DSDC asserts that “well designed and well-placed signage can play a fundamental role in reducing distress, maintaining independence, and improving overall wellbeing.”

So what depicts good dementia-friendly signage?

As mentioned a person with dementia is more likely to become disorientated. They may have a problem in distinguishing relevant information from irrelevant information, screening out visual clutter and/or a tendency to either not notice signs at all or to read the signs indiscriminately.

To ensure your signage is dementia-friendly the first thing is to make sure that what’s important is highly visible and the best way to do this is explained below.

Dementia-friendly signs should:

  • be fitted to the door (not the adjacent wall)
  • be fitted at 1.2m above the ground
  • have clear lettering that is easy to read and understand (a capital letter at the beginning of the word and then lower case)
  • have quality images to help identify the purpose of a room

dementia nhs environment

Does your environment support wayfinding?

Check your signage today:

  1. Are signs of a good size?
  2. Do signs use both pictures and words?
  3. Are signs hung at a height that makes viewing easy?

Download a copy of our signage guide here.

Dementia signage used at Wakefield Hospice is a great success. Read More