People with dementia have very specific needs, and their environments have to be adapted to fulfill them. Whether designing homes or facilities, or even gardens and outdoor spaces for people with dementia, there are certain rules that every designer must follow. These are five that we consider are vital:
1. Create spaces for community integration
It is healthy for people with dementia to be integrated into their neighborhood and relate to people. Encourage socialization by designing spaces to invite people over to interact and share moments together.
2. Make patients feel at home
Keeping a decorative style which people with dementia are used to is going to help them feel and recognized themselves. Their room’s or home’s furniture and decoration must be comfortable for the patient.
3. Encourage brain activity
Colors and objects are beneficial to stimulate the brain of a person with dementia. It helps them as guidance to know where they are or where to go, and as a reference to identify what things are or what they mean. Stimulating their brain will help decrease dementia symptoms and slow down the degenerative process.
Also, environments have to be calmed and easy to digest to make them feel stable and relaxed.
4. Create wide open spaces
It is important, both for the patient and the caregiver, to be able to see each other from anywhere in the room.
In order to feel comfortable, patients have to be able to process the whole environment that surrounds them. Large rooms with big windows connected to open hallways are going to give them visual access to important objects and spaces.
And for caregivers, it is essential always to know where their patients are and to be positioned comfortably to keep an eye on them.
5. Create places for distraction
Whether indoor or outdoor, it is important that people with dementia have a safe and unique space to distract themselves. A place where they can do simple activities like playing table games, sewing or knitting, or anything that they enjoy doing, but that they can identify and relate this particular places to a certain activity.
There are many more rules that need to be considered and applied when designing any type of space for a person with dementia, and there are also many helpful tools and resources of which designers could benefit a lot when taking part in a project. If you want to learn more about these tools, don’t forget to buy the book “Dementia Design Audit Tool” by the Dementia Service Development Center.