As we enter Dementia Awareness Week, Tim Jones, Business Development Manager at CLH talks about how care homes can create the best possible environment for people with dementia.
Dementia changes the way people see and interpret their environment. Simple and everyday objects and behaviours can be confusing and people they once knew become strangers. This means that their environment, whether they are being cared for in their own home or in a care home, needs to be adapted to make them feel comfortable and reassured.
For care homes, this means creating an environment that feels as much like home as possible, so that residents feel both a sense of independence and security. So how can you help to create the very best environment for people with dementia?
It’s important to remember that things look very different to people with dementia. The visual impairment that often comes with older age is coupled with other problems associated with dementia, such as impaired depth perception, spatial disorientation and the reduced ability to perceive contrasts.
This means that people with dementia can find it difficult to distinguish between very muted colours, and complex patterns can make it seem like there is someone or something jumping out towards them, which can be exceptionally frightening. Keep the environment as light and airy as you can and use bright contrasting colours on the walls, avoiding patterned wallpaper. Contrasting colours can also be used to make handrails, drawers and door handles more distinguishable and easy to navigate.
The same principle applies to flooring as it does to walls. Opt for the same colour throughout the rooms, to prevent confusion and make it easier for residents to navigate, and steer clear of anything with heavy patterns. Rugs should be avoided as they are not only a trip hazard but can also be perceived as a hole or an object that needs to be stepped over or around. Shiny flooring should also be avoided, as it can be perceived as being wet.
Besides using lighting to create a bright and cheery atmosphere, specialist lighting can also be used to avoid disorientation and accidents at night. Automatic lighting can be installed that detects movement and turns on when someone is moving around.
Similar to all stages of life, people communicate, learn, and respond positively to different things and in different ways. This extends to signage – some people will respond better to pictures than words, and vice versa, so adding signage with both pictures and words will help people to navigate the home comfortably and safely.
Memory rooms and boxes
Surrounding people with pictures and objects that will trigger happy memories can be achieved in several ways. Simple touches in their bedroom can achieve this, such as pictures on the walls or bedroom doors to help them identify their room, or you can go as far as to create full memory rooms, which are fitted out with furniture and items that take residents back to a time period that is significant to them. This can be a key part of reminiscence therapy.
Being able to get outside in the open air can dramatically improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. Sensory gardens with specific plants can be introduced that attract wildlife such as butterflies, birds and bees, and classic favourites such as marigolds and pansies can help to trigger positive memories. It is also recommended to structure the garden so that residents can be taken on a journey around curves and walkways, that leads them back to the beginning. Dead ends can cause distress and confusion.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a relaxing, comfortable and safe environment for people with dementia, and every home and person will be different, but by introducing some small changes like those outlined above we can make sure that those in our care feel as secure and happy as possible.
CLH Healthcare is a family business which has been supplying products and services into the healthcare sector since 1975. To find out more about them and how they can help you, visit www.clhgroup.co.uk.