At Eastleigh’s Raleigh Mead North Devon Care Home, we have been rated by the CQC as Outstanding for our dementia care. There are lots of different elements to this, but of vital importance is how we’ve created a ‘dementia-friendly’ living environment. This has been achieved through various approaches from careful lighting to furniture designed with a dementia patient in mind.
Dementia friendly spaces can be easier to create than you may realise. It takes a little forethought and effort, but with a few changes you can create a space that is both safe and welcoming to someone with dementia.
Here we reveal our top tips for how to make a space dementia friendly.
If you make one alteration to the space being used by someone with dementia it should be to the lighting. Lighting makes a huge difference to how secure someone can feel due to their ability to make sense of their surroundings.
Focus initially on plenty of good natural light. This is less likely to cause shadows, especially by making sure nothing is blocking the window. Additionally it can help someone follow the pattern of time over the course of a day, which can be tricky with dementia.
When speaking to someone with dementia, or even simply with a hearing impairment, position yourself so that the light falls on your face.
With ambient lighting, again consider the most natural options. Try to reduce dark corners.
Interestingly, mirrors can pose a challenge for someone with dementia as they can confuse the sense of space. If this is a problem then the solution is to remove them or cover them up.
It is vital to remove hazards from the space in which someone with dementia spends time. As they can become easily confused, even such things as a vase of flowers can be mistaken for a drinking glass. Remove cleaning products and the like from the immediate environs.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for a clutter-free environment. Crowded rooms with a great number of items can quickly become overwhelming.
With dementia, confusion can easily take hold. You can cleverly use colour and contrast to clearly denote different areas and things. For example, seating should be a distinctly different colour to the floor and walls. Strong colours work better than complex patterns which can create their own confusion.
Trip hazards are a huge problem for the elderly, but especially for those with dementia who perhaps cannot cognitively work their way around an obstacle.
Therefore keep flooring clear and safe. Remove rugs (the edges are trip hazards!) and things like cables. If there are rugs or unsecured thresholds, it may be beneficial to tape these down.
Additionally, make sure that the flooring is not shiny and won’t reflect glare. It also helps to have the flooring as a distinctly different colour to the walls.
Use pictures and large font labels on things such as cupboard doors and drawers. These will serve as prompts to remind the individual what is within.
If your loved one is forgetful of particular steps in a process, which is very common with dementia, then you can use these labels to remind them of the order in which to do things. For example, in the bathroom you may make a sign for the bathroom cabinet detailing how to brush your teeth.
When we think of nutrition we often focus on the food and drink items themselves. However, for those with dementia, we also need to consider how they will access that food and drink.
There are various aids on the market. However, a great tip is to use crockery which is a distinctly different colour to the food itself, the table or mat. Utensils with plastic and chunky handles can also be easier to use.
It can also be helpful to leave commonly used items out on the side, rather than returning them to cupboards.
It can be useful to install safety equipment which makes life easier and safer for someone with dementia. Grab rails should be positioned near doorways and entrances, as well as in places where someone sits and stands.
In addition, we recommend ensuring that things such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are fully functional and tested regularly. Beeping machines running low on battery can be highly bewildering and cause concern.
With smart technology it can be helpful to install various sensors which can detect things such as temperatures getting too low, or taps left running.
Keeping someone engaged in the present is important, especially in the earlier days of dementia.
Large faced clocks, a clear numerical calendar and even a copy of the days’ newspaper can all help.
It may be useful to have a noticeboard or whiteboard where information relevant to here and now can be displayed. For example, here you may write what time you will telephone them, or what time someone is coming to visit.
Additionally, security and a sense of calm can be achieved by triggering memories from the past which are more easily accessible. Photographs of loved ones are particularly useful. Small objects that have been important to the individual throughout their life too can be good for making someone feel secure.
Think about the flow of thoughts through a space and therefore work out how to position things close to each other.
For example, if someone likes to read in bed, they need to have their book on the bedside table. Telephone numbers need to be kept next to the phone (perhaps with photos next to each name). A key hook should be positioned right next to the door. A remote control can be tied to something near to their favourite TV watching chair. Position the bed so that the doorway to the toilet can be seen.
Similarly, it can be useful to keep internal doors open where possible. It is also prudent to remove internal locks if you can.
With some thought and a small amount of effort, you can transform a space into one which is more dementia friendly. If you are an organisation, looking to make dementia-friendly changes, there are plenty of resources available here from Alzheimer’s Society.
At Raleigh Mead we’ve taken great care to create a leading dementia-friendly environment. Come and see it for yourself by calling 01769 573166.