Dementia Action Week has drawn to a close once again. All week we have been sharing our best tips to enable care homes to implement dementia friendly principles in their care environments. These were posted on Facebook and Twitter every day but don’t worry if you missed any, we can now share this round-up of all 7 tips here on the blog. In addition to the tips as they were posted (with character restrictions!), we’ve taken the opportunity here to elaborate a little on some of the points.
We hope that you found this useful and we’d love to hear about anything that you’re going to put in place as a result (or anything you’re already doing with great success).
Use images as well as text on signage. DO make sure the image is representative of what you will find in that area but DON’T make them too child-like, garish or patronising: signage can be aesthetically pleasing as well as dementia friendly
One of the most common pitfalls we see with dementia signage is being too child-like with signs that wouldn’t look out of place in a nursery. Not only are these garish signs patronising to adults living with dementia, they are often ill suited to the aesthetic of the care space. Effective communication and beautiful design are not mutually exclusive as long as the basic dementia principles are adhered to. See further details here.
Fear of reflection is an issue in dementia. Remove mirrors from communal areas but rather than simply taking all mirrors away, consider a solution that allows you to easily choose whether to have a mirror or picture in private rooms.
People with dementia can become very distressed when looking in a mirror because they simply don’t recognise their reflection as themselves. Many will even believe that there is a stranger in the room. Obviously it is important to minimise this distress but simply removing all mirrors also removes choice for those who don’t experience this fear of reflection. A Reversible Mirror can offer a solution as it provides a choice between a mirror and a dementia friendly picture and can easily be swapped between the two. See more details here.
Use colour contrast as a tool. Contrast signage with the surface it’s installed onto, furniture with flooring and doors with walls. People with dementia can have visuoperceptual issues so contrast helps them to see things properly and can reduce falls.
It becomes much harder for people with dementia to clearly see shapes and outlines. Just as many of us find it more difficult to read menus in restaurants when there’s not enough contrast between text and background, it makes seeing signs on walls or the edges of furniture or doors when the colour scheme is too close. Contrasting signs with the walls they’re placed on makes them easier to see. Contrast between chairs and carpets reduces the risk of trips and contrasting doorframes with walls enables people to leave or enter a room successfully. See more detail here.
Pictures can be confusing for people with dementia. Avoid perspective, ensure shapes/figures have clear outlines, avoid depicting potential peril and when showing people, use direct gazes and happy expressions.
Again, due to the decline in visuoperceptual skills, interpretation of images becomes more difficult. Perspective is hard to process and shapes without clear outlines will blur together. Just as in real life, people respond positively to happy faces and direct gazes and because dementia can invoke a very literal response, images that could potentially show peril (which can be as simple as a child standing alone by the sea) can be upsetting. We have further guidelines on the blog.
For wayfinding use a range of cues, not just signage: wall murals, 3D objects and pictures can all help orient people and help them locate their own space.
Signage is obviously a key part of enabling people to orient themselves in a care environment but it’s not the only one and different people will find different kinds of ‘cues’ useful. Strategically place visual markers such as large scale wall murals, pictures or 3D objects (which can be displayed in a memory box to ensure they don’t get moved) can help people recognise where they are and locate their own space. See more information here.
People with dementia often lose interest in food. Images in dining areas of people eating, especially where the food looks delicious and they appear to enjoy it, can improve appetite.
Loss of appetite can be a big issue in dementia but studies have been done to suggest different ways care environments can encourage people to eat. Ideas like contrasting food with the plates they’re served on (see here) or displaying pictures of people enjoying eating have all been shown to have a positive impact on appetite. Even the presence of a fish tank has seen good results due to its calming effects.
Nostalgia can offer stimulation for people with dementia. Wall murals and pictures featuring images and motifs from previous eras can encourage reminiscence and storytelling as can old film footage and retro-style objects.
Reminiscence therapy is often used in dementia environments to encourage people to draw on their long term memories, which are often still intact. People led sessions are great but the environment itself can also use the same principles through use of nostalgia in wall displays as well as retro objects and items. Just make sure the era you’re referring back to is appropriate for your residents and keeps moving with the times. See more here.
We hope that you’ve found these tips interesting. If you would like to speak to us about how you can implement any of the above in your care environment please don’t hesitate to call us on 01274 728831 or send us a message.