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Applying dementia design theories in care homes

Posted on Tue 5th Dec, 2017 in: Dementia Friendly EnvironmentsDementia Friendly Products

dementia friendly bathroom design

Principles apply across all areas of care home design

It’s true to say that the principles of good design remain constant, whatever the application so we were interested to read this article on the Building Better Healthcare website that looks at designing dementia friendly bathrooms. So many of the principles that we work hard to adhere to in our dementia friendly signage and other dementia products are echoed in bathroom design and consistency of application can only be a good thing.

These parallels manifest in the following areas:

Colour contrast – grab rails, toilet seats and towels in colours that contrast with the areas they’re positioned adjacent to (walls, toilet, bath etc) not only enable someone living with dementia to use these items within the bathroom but also identify that the space is a bathroom in the first place. We use the same principle in our signage, contrasting signs against the wall colour so that they can be seen easily. We also recommend using an image that is representative of the room within so if this image also has contrasting colours that will help.

Mirrors and reflective surfaces – the article advises that mirrors not be used in bathrooms due to the difficulty many people with dementia have in recognising their own reflection. The solution we have come up with for this issue is the reversible mirror which is a mirror on one side and a picture on the other. Having these two options offers choice for the user as some people with dementia don’t have a problem with reflections and still want a semblance of normality. If this changes over time it can easily be reversed. The article makes an interesting point that the same principle also applies to reflective surfaces such as chrome taps and rails which is not perhaps something you would immediately consider.

Reminiscence and familiarity – while reminiscence is recognised as a valuable therapy for people with dementia, you wouldn’t automatically associate it as having an impact on bathroom design. However, evidence shows that people respond better to items they find familiar such as traditional cross head taps rather than lever or button ones (presumably the practical considerations of fine motor skills also need to be considered). We have a number of products that also aim to offer something comforting and familiar such as our Retro TVs and Kodak Digital Displays.

Of course, at the end of the day, good design is good design and it’s not surprising that there are so many ways to apply the same principles. Best practice for care home design surely therefore lies in commitment to these principles and applying them consistently across all areas of operation.

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