Designing for Dementia
At ComfortCare Homes, we believe that where you live can impact how you live. We specialize in dementia care and have cared for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia for more than 25 years. Our residential facilities are not just home-like, they are actual homes modified with intentional design elements. These user-oriented settings make a significant difference when it comes to the comfort of our residents.
Dementia is a disease that attacks and destroys the brain, and as a result, diminishes the sense of the familiar. For someone with Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body or other forms of dementia, once comforting environments can become strange; tragically, as dementia advances, even close friends and family will become unrecognizable.
In later stages of dementia, physical functioning becomes impaired, resulting in the need for 24-hour supervision and increased medical care. Ironically, the clinical design of care environments like hospitals or nursing homes can increase the anxiety felt by people with dementia, simply by intensifying the sense of unfamiliarity with their surroundings. This can lead to an increase in behavioral issues as well as an overreliance on medication to keep residents calm.
Environment and Quality Care
Designing for dementia care is different than design for a general audience. As observed in a 2015 study, “Dementia Environment Design in Seniors Housing” by Steven J. Orfield, design “typically seen in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is, to a large degree, distracting and difficult for the population of residents with dementia,” and therefore “design [for dementia] needs to be about clarity and not style.”
As dementia progresses, the ability to identify or comprehend a wide variety of objects or situations diminishes, which can often lead to social withdrawal which hastens the progression of the disease. Social engagement can help to slow the progression of dementia, and one of the best ways to do that is to provide an environment that simple to understand. Whether we retrofit a residence, or build an entirely new home, we take certain design elements into consideration:
- Way finding: how easy is it to navigate through the residence? Are doorways clearly outlined? Are there any dead-end hallways that can cause confusion? Does every room look like what its function is?
- Decoration: are the color palates simple, and not overly colorful or patterned? Do they increase contrast and make understanding the room easy? Does each resident’s room contain familiar objects that will indicate to them where they are?
- Lighting: Is there appropriate lighting? Is there an abundance of natural light during the day, and proper lighting at night? Can the residents clearly tell the difference between day and night? Are household objects clearly identifiable in multiple lighting situations?
- Signage: Is all signage clear, high-contrast, and relevant?
- Safety: Can residents wander safely and purposefully throughout the home?