These are the 5 Rules Every Designer Must Know to Create Spaces for People with Dementia

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.

7 of the Best Books for Dementia Design you Must Read

If you are interested in improving your knowledge about dementia design, these are the seven books that must be in your library:


Design features to assist patients with dementia in general hospitals and emergency departments

This book describes the design principles, key features, and particular challenges every designer, architect or anyone involved in dementia building design and construction must follow and overcome to ensure that hospitals and emergency departments are adapted to the needs of people with dementia.

It is part of a series of books published by the Dementia Services Development Centre.


Designing outdoor spaces for people with dementia

Supported by research, this book is meant to provide profound information about the design of outdoor spaces for people with dementia in different environments such as towns, cities, gardens, patios, and more.

It was edited by Pollock, A. and Marshall, M, and received 5 stars in a Nursing Times review.


Design for people with dementia: an overview of building design regulators – England edition

This book provides information about legislation, regulations, standards, inspection and enforcement powers of building design for people with dementia in England


Designing mental health units for older people: features to assist patients with dementia and delirium

This books details features of a dementia-friendly design as well as directions to how to create appropriate environments for the interventions that patients with dementia typically undergo. It also helps to understand the impairments and disabilities an elderly patient with dementia and delirium faces.


Designing balconies, roof terraces and roof gardens for people with dementia

This book is meant to advise how to create outside spaces that are not located on the ground or first floor of the building. It details practical ways to take advantage of these spaces and adapt them for people with dementia.

It is part of a series of books published by the Dementia Services Development Centre.


Designing interiors for people with dementia – 4th edition

This is an assisting tool for guiding designers and architects to create and accommodate spaces in order to take care efficiently of people with dementia in an appropriate environment, whether a care facility or at their own home. It details aspects of indoor architectural and design elements that have a significant impact on the patient.


10 Helpful hints for dementia design at home

This is an easy-to-read book that provides guidance and design solutions to bring commodities and adapt the environment to the needs of a person with dementia, to let them have a little independence in their own home. It is destined for carers and family members that worry about having the right tools for taking care of their patients.

It received 4/5 in a Nursing Standard review.

Consider This When Designing Homes for People with Dementia

One of the most important things to do when someone is diagnosed with dementia is to adapt their environment to their new needs. We may think that a better choice would be to transfer them to a special facility where they could be taken care for, but what we sometimes forget is that they would feel more comfortable in their own home. The solution is, then, to make the appropriate arrangements in their house


Start with the minimum

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, it is better not the remodel their home altogether, but instead, make the right arrangements to keep them safe and secure. Their home has to remain essentially the same, but include few changes that go unnoticed and do a lot.


Design with endurance and to last long

People with dementia can become emotionally unstable and sometimes react in unexpected ways that could harm them and damage objects around them. It is important that these objects are soft enough not to hurt anyone but also durable enough to be hard to break. Protective surfaces and impact resistant walls are features that could be included in any home.


Kitchens have to be safe and fun

The kitchen is one of the most important spaces of a house. The phrase “the kitchen is the heart of every home” is commonly heard in any country, and it speaks the truth. The kitchen is a space that allows people to share special moments while cooking, which can be a therapeutic activity. It can be a place for therapy and for creating homelike atmospheres that bring positive impacts on a patient’s brain.

A well-adapted kitchen for people with dementia has to be open to moving around comfortably. It has to have many places to sit comfortably, tools that should not be touched must be placed out of reach, and home appliances have to be easy to use.


Bathrooms have to provide independence

Bathrooms have to provide support and let them feel more independent. Since these are very private places, it might be possible that they don’t feel comfortable with someone assisting, so it would be better to accommodate the bathroom in a way that they could clean up on their own.

Showers cubicles have to be easy to get in and always have grab rails. They could also include additional lighting. The bathroom can feature a mirror, but it is important to consider a way of covering it or hiding to avoid a person with dementia who no longer recognizes their reflection to be confused and distressed.


Include assistive technology

Assistive technology is always helpful in any home. Wheelchairs and scooters can help taking a person from one place to another without much effort. Sensors and alarms can help to keep track of water, gas, lighting, and temperature of the house. Or even smaller things such as medication dispensers with alarms can help a person remember when to take medicine.

If you want to learn more and find amazing tips about home designing for people with dementia, don’t forget to buy the book “10 Helpful hints for dementia design at home” by the Dementia Services Development Centre.

3 Tips to Make Interiors Comfortable for People with Dementia

A care facility for people with dementia has to be adapted to its patients’ needs. Caregivers have to understand how people with dementia see the world and move on it to be able to offer the best help they can. These are a kind of patients that require a lot of attention and have particular necessities, so it is important that everything that surrounds them accommodates to them. Here are four tips to create comfortable spaces for residents of a dementia care facility:


1. Areas for wandering are a must

One of the biggest characteristics of dementia patients is that they tend to wander around quite often. As we cannot control them, wandering is a must in their lives, but it can put them in dangerous situations. It is important to accommodate the furniture in a way that it does not block their path and leads them back to where they started. Doors they should not pass can be painted the same color as the wall, so they don’t notice them.


2.  Use objects to make them feel comfortable

It has been proven that objects help triggering memories and make connections with important parts of their lives. Personalize their space with familiar objects to make them feel at home. This will also help them stay calmed and relaxed.

Also, objects can help them make connections with simple actions and give them a sense of stability and order. Particular and identifiable objects like statues, big clocks, pianos, bookshelves, etc., can help them recognize where they are and what to do there. For example, a picture that attracts their attention located in a dining room can help them understand that that is the place for eating. They establish a connection between the picture and eating.


3. Avoid confusing and contrasting objects, walls and floors

The brain of a person with dementia understands things literally, so it is important to avoid mixed signals in anything that surrounds them. If wallpaper looks like a sky but when they approach it there isn’t more space in front of them, and instead it feels hard – because it is a wall- they can feel stressed and confused.

Floors have to be the least contrasting in their environment. It is better to keep the same flooring type all over the place and avoid having different patterns in hallways and rooms since these changes could make it hard for them to step into new places.

If you want to learn more about how to design interiors for people with dementia, don’t forget to buy the book “Designing interiors for people with dementia – 4th edition” by Liz Fuggle.

5 Tips to Designing Gardens and Outdoor Locations for People with Dementia

Dementia can be a very complicated condition. People who suffer it forget who they are, where they are, what they are doing, and more. When noticing they can’t remember anything, they feel lost and get in a very confusing state of mind, which limits them and makes them distrust everything around them that they cannot recognize. This is why it is essential to provide them with an environment that makes them feel comfortable, and gardens and outdoor spaces can offer a sense of peacefulness.


1. Set the perimeter

Whether caregivers or a family taking care of their elders, it is important first to set a perimeter that is visible from anywhere in the house or easy to keep an eye on and delimit it with fences to prevent someone from leaving the safe areas.


2. Defining entrances and exits

Just as a perimeter has to be well set, it’s ways of access have to be well designed and easy to find and recognize. It is important that people with dementia can move freely from inside and outside their home. Doors should be wide enough to allow people with disabilities to move freely as well, and entrances and exits should be marked to be found quickly and be open at all times.


3. Making a path

Even though people with dementia have to move in their surroundings freely, it is important to design a path they can follow without really thinking where they are going. This path should let them flow free around the garden but still allow caregivers to keep them under control.

Paths have to be designed to lead people towards a destination, through which they can find distractions such as plants and flowers, benches, ponds or fountains, etc., anything that could be an interesting object to put their attention for a while and then move to another thing.


4. Plants for fun an distraction

Plants are obviously going to be the primary focal point in a garden, so they have to be adapted for people with dementia. The kind of plants that should be in this garden are the ones that provide sensory stimulation. People with dementia like to touch and feel things, so plants have to be placed at an achievable level and have to make beautiful sounds, and have bright colors, strong smells, and interesting textures.


5. Good lighting

When the night falls, it is challenging to recognize the features of the garden, so it is important that the path, entrances and exits and every object that needs to become visible, has a lighting system incorporated. It is also good to illuminate certain parts of doors, like keyholes or doorknobs, which are generally hard to find in the dark.

People with dementia are as curious and active as kids, but the difference is that they simply forget things and lose track of time. If you want to learn more about garden design for people with dementia, don’t forget to buy the book “Designing outdoor spaces for people with dementia,” edited by Mary Marshall and Annie Pollock.