Why dementia design matters

We interact with thousands of products every day. Flooring beneath our feet, door handles in our grasp, lighting showing us the way.

 

People living with dementia are profoundly affected by their immediate environment. They rely on their environment to show them where they are, what they can do and if they are okay.

If you’ve ever stood helplessly waving your hands at an automatic tap, rest assured that it wasn’t your fault. That’s poor design in action, causing frustration and embarrassment. People living with dementia are at higher risk of those experiences of failure and decline in almost every area of their environment.

 

 

The importance of dementia-friendly products around the home

DementiaChoicesHouse

 
Click on an option below to read more about each space.

 

In this very personal space, it’s important to maintain a personal feel that’s unique to the individual. Texture and colour are also important.

Dementia-friendly bedroom-specific furniture such as floor rugs, chairs, cupboards and beds are important, and products can support people to make choices more easily – for example, wardrobes can be designed to provide easy access or storage that supports decision making aligned to seasonal wear.

 

In the bathroom more than anywhere, people living with dementia need to recognise the function of each feature. Modern design tends to hide functionality. This can make life very hard for people with dementia and can contribute to loss of independence.

Strong, easily distinguishable features help people with dementia identify key fittings, even at night. Fittings should be as home-like as possible and ease of use is essential. Water can be temperature controlled and plugs optimised to stop accidental flooding.

The heart of the home, this is where most people have their meals, watch TV and enjoy some quiet time. Dementia-friendly furniture designed to promote safety and independence needs to be easily recognisable and, in a care setting, look like furniture found at home.

Colour and texture is important, as is ease of sitting and standing from chairs and sofas. Shape, contrast and tone all need to be taken into consideration before the layout is decided. 

Participating in kitchen activities may be important for people living with dementia. The familiar, purposeful activities can support a feeling of independence and stimulate appetite.

Dementia Choices kitchen products should be designed to support participation while subtly managing risks. Remote switches, gas alert alarms and built-in fail safes are all useful.

Dementia Choices supports people living with dementia to continue to use outdoor spaces as they always have done by providing products that enable everyday activities:

  • Using the patio for meals, socialising, reading
  • Walking around in the space
  • Watering hoses and cans
  • Gardening tools

 

Product design

Product design can enable or disable. Often, design is what lets a person with dementia down. The vinyl creates too much glare, or the hand dryer is too loud. Signage is unfamiliar or talks down to the person, or the taps are too hard to use. The knock-on effect is that the person is impaired further, which can create frustration, anxiety and a sense of failure.

In short, as originally explained by gerontologist Dr. Powell Lawton, the more impaired you are, the more the environment should compensate for your impairments. Products have to compensate for both the impairments of dementia (visuoperceptual difficulties, reduced ability to work things out and learn new things) and the impairments of ageing – poorer hearing, vision, mobility and strength.

Regulations and guidance

The important role the environment plays in good quality care is being increasingly recognised. It has been reflected in the recent update to the Australian Aged Care Quality Standards which now require organisations to demonstrate that ‘the service environment is welcoming and easy to understand, and optimises each consumer’s sense of belonging, independence, interaction and function.’[1]

[1] Australian Aged Care Quality Standards - Standard 5. An organisation's service environment*

 

If you are interested in becoming an endorsed Dementia Choices supplier, contact us today.

 

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