By Kerry Southern-Reason, managing director at Care Home Interiors Co.
“To make a real difference and give people the respect and space they deserve as adults who have lived a lot of life.”
This is a motto the design team at Care Home Interiors Co. live and work to as they extol the virtues of their tried and tested ‘practical-based’ designed interiors for people living with dementia.
If Covid-19 has taught us anything it’s that dementia residents need a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning with meaningful tasks to engage with in their living environment.
As designers we need to make the space interactive like a normal home, a place to do tasks in a safe secure way. Why should a dementia resident’s home be any less outstanding than a well thought out and designed care home?
Sensory and tactile, pick up, and put down, thought provoking, interesting, all our energy goes into this. I have seen the absolute fear on a person’s face when utter confusion takes over at the sight of a life-like mural depicting one of many realistic scenes that you can’t actually engage with. How confusing would that be to you when you are already wrestling with confusion, fear, frustration and loss of your memory?
Design should enhance and enable a person’s quality of life allowing them to take control however they can. For us this is all in the detail. We create areas of interest for individuals. We call them activity displays. This could be a display of hats or flowers. Having the freedom to pick something up like this, maybe mooch along with it, or sit in a tactically placed chair positioned for contemplation of an object, encourages sensory interactions.
Finding joy in the little things like picking up a hat can lead to discovering a long lost memory about once wearing them, it’s real, it means something, and more to the point it doesn’t create confusion or distress, in fact quite the opposite.
A few points to remember before embarking on designing or refurbishing your care home for those living with dementia.
Normal is best
People with dementia want to be in an environment that is as normal to them as it can possibly be. They remember living in a domestic home, not a clinical institutional building, try to remember it’s their home.
Distinguish a room’s purpose
Practical design is very important in alleviating confusion. Obvious references such as a fireplace in the living room, dining tables, cutlery and crockery in the dining room can avoid frustration and fear as they clearly define the space and its use.
Keep it real
Fake items are not real. Why not create something that can be engaged with instead? A collection of hats, costume jewellery, books, or playing cards, keeping it real encourages interaction and prevents confusion.
Remember; make no assumptions when designing for people living with dementia. Instead focus on making a comfortable and homely living environment.