How to create a dementia-friendly environment in your care home

If you run or manage a care home, it’s vital to create the right living environment for people with dementia. Create a successful dementia-friendly setting, and you’ll help to prevent confusion, and reduce tension among residents; which will ultimately  improve health and general wellbeing. The end result? Staff will find it easier to provide care, and all residents will be able to live far more independently.

Contrary to popular belief, the key to creating the right environment isn’t simply having a good design. Yes, it can set you on the path to achieving the right look, but the most successful dementia-friendly settings are also underpinned by an effective care model. Read on, and discover how you can start creating dementia-friendly environments in your care home.

Ensure residents know what to expect from each room

In our experience, successful dementia settings are homely, appropriate for their function, and easy for residents to recognise.

It’s important to have a focal point for each room: for example, a living room can seem much cosier with the addition of a fireplace; and a dining room becomes clear once you’ve added in tables and chairs.

Bright colour schemes can help dementia residents to distinguish between different rooms, and you should try to incorporate contrasting colours on walls and floors, as well as any doors or bannisters, to help them stand out.

When it comes to dining, using crockery that contrast in colours to the tablecloth can help residents to better define the edges of plates or cutlery, enabling them to eat more independently – making mealtimes much more enjoyable.

The other thing to consider when creating a dementia-friendly environment is the usage of labels and signs. For example, you may wish to add clearly signed labels or pictures on cupboards or drawers so residents know what’s inside them.

 Use furniture to create a friendly environment

Furniture is essential to creating the right environment for your residents. When selecting your furniture, you may want to consider items that have been specifically designed to help people with dementia feel more relaxed and at home.

For instance, bedroom cabinet furniture with scoop handles and without a door enables residents to easily see what’s inside without having to rummage through their items. 

Avoid having too many mirrors around your care home, as reflections can cause people with dementia to feel unsettled and distressed, as they may not recognise themselves. For this reason, closing curtains in the evening can help to avoid unnecessary stress, so they don’t see themselves in the glass.

Rugs may make a room look cosier, but you should try to reduce the number of them to avoid any trips. Always opt for carpet over shiny or reflective flooring, which can cause confusion, with dementia residents potentially struggling to walk over it.

The other thing to consider when creating a dementia-friendly environment is the fact that residents tend to spend a lot of time sitting down. Therefore, it’s important your seating is comfortable and caters for people’s personal preferences. Installing seats that are in a range of different heights and depths is a great way to ensure residents find the right seat for them.

Also think about accessories used, as there are plenty of products out there that have been specifically designed for people living with dementia. For example, you may want to equip residents with reminder devices to help them remember to take their medication; or have clocks on the wall that show the day and date, in addition to the time.

Take age-related impairments into account

As people with dementia tend to be older, age-related impairments, such as sight, hearing and memory loss should all be considered. Factoring these elements into your environment will help residents feel more at ease and allow them to live more independently.

For example, residents with a hearing impairment – and particularly dementia sufferers – can find certain sounds frustrating and overly loud, so it’s important to try and reduce excess noise. Carpets, curtains, and cushions can all help with absorbing background noise; but you should also turn off radios and TVs if no one is paying attention to them. 

If you can, try to create quiet spaces throughout the care home, that residents can retire to if they’re feeling overwhelmed. For example, while some residents may wish to spend their mealtimes at the dining table socialising with others; some may want to sit somewhere quieter, where they feel more comfortable.

Another thing to consider is lighting. Natural lighting is key, so make sure your curtains are open in the day, and that any hedges or trees are cut back so light isn’t restricted into your care home. Try to avoid any shadows or reflections, and consider adding in automatic light sensors to hallways and bathrooms, to try and prevent any trips or falls. 

Include accessories to trigger memories

Accessories that relate to residents’ memories, such as nameplates, photographs, and memory boxes, are also an excellent way to help make residents with memory loss feel more at ease. You can use these to help residents find their own space and familiarise themselves with their environment.

You might also want to encourage dementia residents to keep a diary where they can write down what they have been up to, in addition to upcoming events, to help them feel a sense of independence.

Therapy dolls are also helping to calm dementia residents, and help them feel safe and happy. These lifelike dolls can provide residents with enjoyment by letting them hold or spend time with them, as they can help to bring back reminiscent thoughts, or even give residents a renewed sense of purpose.

Alternatively, you may wish to invest in life-like animals, which can help residents to feel safer and happier, perhaps even bringing back memories of childhood pets.

Use our model for additional ideas

We created this reminiscence lounge for Friends of the Elderly (FOTE), which is a great example of what a dementia-friendly environment looks like.

Dementia-friendly living room

  • The main points to take from this are: Comfortable, traditional seating with waterproof upholstery and piping to clearly define the shape
  • Flooring that contrasts with both the furniture, and the accessories that sit on it
  • Focal point fireplace that makes the room recognisable as a lounge
  • Retro style TV and TV unit – this will be familiar to residents who were young during the era of these pieces
  • Windows not covered to enable maximum natural light (although the curtains would be shut in the evening to avoid reflections)
  • An overall bright, cheerful colour scheme (neutral colours would be inappropriate for someone with a visual impairment)

Final thoughts

Ultimately, a dementia-friendly environment is about helping residents to feel safe and happy, to reduce feelings of confusion or anxiety; and everything we’ve discussed can help you to achieve that.

If you’d like to see examples of specialist dementia furniture, or find out how you can make your care home dementia-friendly, then visit our care showroom. With the UK’s largest collection of specialist care equipment and furniture set up in clinical and care home settings, it’s here where you can discover our interior design service

Alternatively, contact us if you have any questions, or head on over to our blog if you’d like to find out the latest news in the care sector.

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