There is a plethora of research about dementia architecture, especially dementia-friendly guidelines.
Architect Lauren Di Pietro from DWA Architects says there are certain environmental adaptations that can improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. Here are some of her top tips for dementia-friendly design.
- Use adapted beds and high backed chairs
These allow residents to get in and out of beds and chairs with comfort and ease. Handrails are essential to help keep people with dementia as independent as possible.
- Make the home secure but not restrictive
Exit doors should be monitored and fitted with alarms, and the garden should be accessible whilst being secure to enable people to be safe but independent.
- Control noise levels:
Noise is a key factor that needs to be controlled, although not eliminated. Noise from outside the building can be potentially distracting so adaptations such as adding double glazing and lined curtains are helpful. People with dementia can also often have impaired hearing, in addition to cognitive impairments. This can make it difficult to identify which sounds to attend to. The environment should be calm and stimulating.
- Think about colour:
Contrasting colours and plain and non-patterned surfaces should also be distinguishable from each other. Patterns and changes in colour of flooring between rooms can sometimes appear like a step for people with dementia. It is also important that general areas of the home should be lit at an appropriate level.
Finding your way
“Wayfinding is affected by people living with dementia so cues in the environment are important to help them find rooms,” said Di Pietro.
“Using signs on room doors and cupboards can be a good way of reducing confusion and distress. This can help orientate people. For example, a picture of a traditional-style bathtub on the bathroom door at the right height for people with dementia can enable them to recognise what a room is before they have entered.”
She added that research shows that placing a portrait-like photograph and personal memorabilia in a display case outside the room of each person with dementia increased room-finding by 45 per cent.
“Location of certain rooms is also important. Placing a toilet or assisted bathroom adjacent to the day space enables people with dementia to find it easily.”
More design tips from DWA Architects.