Design for their Eyes: Keeping residents with dementia safe and engaged

In a recent interview with I Advance Senior Care, interior designer Kelley Hoffman and architect Mitchell Elliott discussed ideas on the use of good design principles to create safe spaces for residents with dementia, allowing them to move about confidently, enjoy a sense of independence, and stay safe. Thoughtfully planned and designed environments enable caregivers to provide extraordinary care, and Kelley and Mitch share their thoughts in the full article (linked below), about the following essential considerations in designing for this distinct population of elders:

Listen to the staff
While it’s important to apply best practices in dementia-friendly interior design, consultants should never underestimate the significance of input from an individual facility’s staff. Each community has specific needs, and it’s imperative for designers to listen and learn from the caretakers who work with residents every day.

In a senior living space that serves residents with dementia, it’s important to strike a balance between practicality, usability, and safety. High-gloss or heavily patterned floors may confuse residents; however, flooring with enough of a design to forgive soil and staining is ideal from a maintenance perspective. Particular carpeting styles may present visual and navigational issues, while transitions between flooring surfaces are another crucial consideration.

From strategic use and placement of manually increased and decreased lighting, to tunable lighting, to night lighting, visual lighting cues assist residents in maintaining circadian rhythms, discourage them from leaving or venturing into unsafe areas, or encourage them to enter others. Lighting is not only a vital element of living spaces for dementia patients, but for their caregivers as well, who may be more heavily depended upon by residents who are uncomfortable, afraid, or confused in inappropriate lighting.

Simply put – simplicity is the key to wayfinding in a facility designed for elders with dementia. Long hallways, hidden corners, and multiple turns are some of the navigational barriers to residents living life as independently as possible.

For residents with cognitive decline, keeping them engaged outside of meal and activity times can prove especially challenging. In spaces such as dining areas and common rooms, interior design elements and specific items can play a key role in attracting residents to engage, interact, and socialize with one another in a comfortable home-like setting. Private room size is also a key design contemplation, as rooms both too large and too small can have unintended consequences.

Read the entire I Advance Senior Care article here.

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