John Cresswell, MD of Focus on Dementia, recently posted the following question on LinkedIn:
“Can somebody please tell me what good dementia care should look like?”
To get the discussion started he suggested a number of areas that he proposed we should be striving for: “Trained staff with knowledge, clean surroundings and dining experiences, meaningful activities, cutting edge technology or the best leadership skills. Beautiful well designed dementia layouts and wayfinding, choice driven support every minute of the day, a robustness to protect our vulnerable, thinking outside the box, better approaches to crisis, healthy living, faster information, investing in our children, and dying well.”
The phrase that caught our eye was “Beautiful well designed dementia layouts and wayfinding” because it recognises the value in the functionality of an environment alongside the care provided by staff and the strategic approach to dementia care.
Often family members, when choosing a care home, will have many criteria in mind when it comes to the actual environment such as pleasant homely décor and cleanliness but actually, one of the most crucial aspects is design – how well designed the space is for moving around, finding your way and recognising your own space within it. An effective environment for people with dementia is one that uses cues through images, colour, signage and objects to help them navigate it, without it feeling like an institution cluttered with signs and instructions.
We know that people with dementia struggle to understand traditional signage so dementia friendly signage techniques need to be employed but we can also use devices like images displayed as pictures or wall murals and 3D objects to provide anchor points and representation for key areas and colour contrast can help people clearly see furniture, doors and walkways which can blend together for someone with dementia if they’re monotonal.
Being able to navigate the space where you live reduces confusion (a source of distress) and helps create a feeling of belonging which is a really important element of the mix that makes up good dementia care.