When it comes to the world of aged care construction and design, one of the latest hot topics is dementia-friendly environments.
With Australia’s ageing population, it’s well-understood that the number of patients who experience dementia is only likely to increase. Currently more than 342,000 Australians are living with dementia. This blog explores some of the building, fitout and cultural trends being adopted by hospitals and aged care facilities to ensure their premises are designed to help these vulnerable patients.
A key principal of dementia-friendly design is home-like environments. Home-like environments are more familiar and comfortable for people with dementia and assist in supporting them to enjoy maximum independence. An all-encompassing concept, this includes both the language staff and others use to refer to different spaces and the physical look and feel of those spaces.
Language-wise, it’s important to use home-like language rather than hospital language. For example, referring to “hallways” not “corridors” and a “music room” rather than “activity room”. Design-wise, home-like environments mirror home living arrangements as much as possible. This means choosing more home-like wall finishes, floor finishes, furniture, décor and colours, and making non-home-like features such as a nurse’s station more discrete.
People with dementia need to continue engaging in everyday activities that they enjoy. Because their interests are wide and varied, dementia-friendly environments cater to supporting these activities and interests as much as possible. Once again, this is part culture, part design.
Culturally, where possible, people with dementia should be invited to take part in activities they can do. Design-wise, this means having different spaces that support these activities. For example, a games room or space for those who enjoy chess, a library for the readers, a music room for those who enjoy music. It’s also important to have safe outdoor leisure spaces where people with dementia can exercise.
When a person has dementia, they do not immediately lose all their memory and abilities. Many are still able to maintain a level of independence in their day-to-day life. This differs from individual to individual. That’s why dementia-friendly environments should have flexibility for ability-appropriate personalisation.
Ability-appropriate personalisation is about adapting each individual’s main living space to allow them to continue carrying out the daily-life activities they’re still capable of and support them in activities they cannot do. For example, many patients may be able to dress themselves, but may need assistance in laying out their clothes in the order they will put them on. While this will require adaptions in practice, other independent activities may require adaptions in design.
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