How interior design can boost resident and carer wellbeing

Designing interiors for care homes is far more than choosing a pretty cushion or the most practical seating – although both of these are important factors that should not be overlooked. Decor, furniture and layout for care homes can have a direct effect on patients, families and even staff’s wellbeing. 

In this article Dana O’Donell and Joyce McLelland, senior interior designers at Blueleaf explore the importance of interior design within the care industry. 

No two care homes are the same which means each interior design project comes with its own challenges and rewards. Whether the aim is to encourage independence, create a balance of comfort and safety, or even to reduce stress and symptoms of dementia, design techniques can have a major impact.  

The best designers go beyond the look and feel of a space to incorporate an effective care model that meets the everyday needs of residents and staff. Addressing specific age-related impairments that impact on mobility, sight, hearing and memory are all elements and issues which should be incorporated into initial design planning.

Dana O’Donel

It is important to consider that not all care homes are the same as they vary greatly in size, location and facilities offered, with standards of fixtures and fittings often determined by budget as well as catchment area, which can be very challenging.

Make a house a home

Moving into a care home can be a distressing time for the new residents – and their families, too. A well designed and welcoming environment can help to make the transition more comfortable for all involved.

Creating a friendly environment requires careful consideration of furniture, patterns and even the acoustics of the area. Spaces can be made as welcoming and homely as possible by choosing the correct furniture and carefully considering the layout. The rooms should be designed and planned in a way which enhances resident’s independence by making it safe and easy to get around.

Adding textures and contrasting patterns on fabrics and wallpapers can help to create depth and warmth. This design approach also helps bring an extra dimension to a scheme, ensuring the room doesn’t exert a cold or clinical feel.

Joyce McLelland

Colour and pattern are still highly important factors in care home design – and it is very easy to get it wrong. Floral patterns have been popular for years; mainly because bringing nature into an inside space can help create a calming atmosphere, especially for those unable to go outdoors regularly. This design trend is known as biophilia, and is becoming increasingly popular as is have been proven to change the way we operate within a built environment. Cole & Son launched a botanical themed selection of wallpapers of which both Joyce and Dana are great fans.

Colour is a crucial aspect of the design process as it has a huge impact on how people feel. Whilst bright colours can certainly help us feel energised, there’s a danger they can look too corporate and so the way in which we select colours is a key element of successful interior design, and so great care must be taken to get it absolutely spot on.

Consideration for All

Designing for a care based environment requires consideration for not only atmospheric reasons, but for a variety of medical issues. Rooms need to be suitable for staff, residents and visitors to move easily and without the risk of falling. Every space also needs to be able to accommodate mobility frames, wheelchairs and residents who have sight impairment.

When approaching a design project, it is advantageous to incorporate features that help address challenges associated with old age. Doing so is enormously beneficial on an emotional level, as it helps alleviate people’s frustration. This in turn will lower stress levels.

Striving to achieve 30 points difference LRV (light reflective values), between surfaces, to help those living with eyesight deterioration is one example of this. Creating such a distinct contrast improves the chance of residents being able to decipher the difference, giving them confidence and a sense of security and ultimately, helping them to live independently.

A strong understanding of dementia is powerful when it comes to planning design within a care environments as it allows them a room that creates a safe environment –  and addresses the most common issues that dementia sufferers face – to be designed.

Some examples of the details that should be considered include:

  • Soft furnishings to act as noise dampening and reduce stress caused by noisy environments.
  • Focal points to indicate the rooms purpose i.e. the bed in a bedroom.
  • Avoid the use of mirrored doors as they can cause confusion.
  • The use of scoop handles on cabinets which are easier to use for residents.
  • Creating a ‘reminiscence lounge’ as a safe space for residents which has photographs, posters and ornaments that can help promote conversation and encourage residents past memories.

Designed to Care

While the rooms should look and feel welcoming, the most important factors relate to care of the residents. Attention should especially be paid to infection control. As a care environment it is vital that cleanliness is easy to maintain.

When selecting covers for seating, for example, it pays to opt for vinyl, duo split or smooth finish fabrics as all are easy to wipe clean and so offer good antibacterial advantages. Also, where possible, freestanding furniture should be fitted with castors, as this makes cleaning underneath easier.

When it comes to flooring, capped or coved vinyl is the best option, as it can be gently curved up the base of a wall, helping to stop the build-up of dirt. Capping strips create a neat, hygienic finish.

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