Barbour has recently published an article on interior design trends for 2018 across key sectors such as retail, hospitality and healthcare (see it here). The section on design for dementia reads as follows:
A rapid increase in cases of dementia has led to the importance of interior design for dementia patients. Whether this be in hospitals, care homes or even private residences the importance of creating a comfortable and easy to negotiate space is key. Large spaces can be a challenge for people with dementia so making a facility feel as much like a home as possible will help put the patient at ease. Using different and contrasting colours can help reduce confusion as well as the use of different textures. With designing for dementia it is also important to include landmarks throughout the facility, no repetition of design features.
These ideas are certainly something that we’ve seen developing over the last couple of years. Creating distinct areas will help people with dementia make sense of their environment so adopting different colour schemes, making signage unique to each space and using cues (or ‘landmarks’ as the article refers to) can help achieve this. Our dementia signage features both words and images to help communicate what the area is. Reading words can become increasingly difficult for people as dementia develops due to the impact on their visuoperceptual skills. Therefore, not only are they often unable to read the words properly, it can make text-only signs all look pretty much the same. The addition of the image adds an extra form of communication and the more it looks like the space it’s representing, the better.
Colour contrast is also an important element of dementia signage. The higher the contrast between the text and the background and also the sign and the wall on which it’s mounted, the more it stands out and is likely to be noticed. It is also more legible (you don’t have to be living with dementia to know how difficult it can be to read a menu in a restaurant when the text is only a couple of shades darker than the background!). We go by LRV (light reflective value) rather than colour per se and always aim for a minimum LRV difference of 30 between sign and wall colour. This also accounts for reflective properties of the materials as well as colour. You can read more about this in a article we wrote for The Care Home Environment Magazine.
‘Landmarking’ can be achieved in a number of ways and not just through traditional wayfinding aids like signage. It’s simply about placing markers or cues to help people understand where they are. We’ve used wall murals with distinctive large scale images as well as memory boxes with unique objects inside and even the placement of retro TVs and digital fish tanks to allow people to associate them with a specific location. We all understand our surroundings in a variety of ways (images, words, even touch and smell) so creating maximum opportunities for people to form associations is really important.
And finally, creating a home-like feel can really help to reduce anxiety. Perhaps this is something slighter easier to achieve in a care home but it’s not impossible for hospitals to create environments that are less clinical. Our false windows and fireplaces can help with this and we can create wall murals that look like vintage wallpaper patterns (standard wallpaper doesn’t meet the hygiene requirements needed for hospitals but the wall murals do). The Abbeyfield Society’s award winning care home at Winnersh created corridors that look like streets with front-door-style doors, street lamps and street signage (which we provided).
As the number of dementia cases increase then we need to continue to find more ways to make environments more accessible. Not only does it help with physical wayfinding, it can help reduce anxiety by promoting familiarity and reassurance.