Hospitals can be distressing places at the best of times. If you have dementia or other cognitive condition it can be a frightening and disorienting place whether a patient or a visitor. Stressed patients stay longer and need more medication.Taking a universal design approach can provide a better experience. Academic research and consumer input underpins this comprehensive guide to designing dementia-friendly hospitals from a universal design approach. In Ireland, where the guide was developed, they estimate almost one third of patients have dementia and as the population ages this will increase. Of course, dementia friendly design using a UD approach is good and inclusive for everyone. The guidelines are available to read online using Issuu software.
Below is a short video that provides an overview of the design factors that need to be considered in creating a dementia friendly hospital.
There is also a media release that provides an overview of the development of the guidelines and the project partners.
A shiny floor may not be wet but it could look that way to someone with dementia. A black mat isn’t a hole in the ground either. And shadows of lattice through a window can look like steps. Mono coloured features are hard to distinguish too. These design details can easily be overcome with some extra thought about perception at the early design stage, or adapted in existing homes and buildings. The Guardian has an excellent article about these issues. It discusses how virtual reality software can bring more awareness to designers about these issues as well as the concepts of universal design.
Editor’s note: taking photos of places and seeing them in two dimensions instead of three really highlights the perception differences.
Dementia Australia has produced an app for tablets and smartphones to help with creating a dementia-friendly home. It uses interactive 3D game technology which provides carers with ideas on how to make the home more suitable for people living with dementia. Most people with dementia live in the community and many enjoy everyday activities and stay engaged with their communities. Suitable home design is key to staying active and involved.
The App is based on the ten Dementia Enabling Environments Principles and prompts carers and others to think about many of the small inexpensive ideas that can make a big difference. Technology solutions such as sensors for lighting are also covered. Tips include removing clutter and changing busy patterned wall or floor coverings to help with perception and confusion. You can also see some of the research underpinning the Dementia Enabling Environments Principles. To see what it is like to live with dementia, have a look at the Virtual Dementia Experience.
Bank SA has trained their staff to recognise customers with dementia and to help them carry out their banking tasks more comfortably. Often there are simple solutions. For example, as reported in the Age Care Insight article, one customer started to come into the bank weekly instead of fortnightly for her pension. She would become anxious if it wasn’t pension week and no money was deposited. So they set up a system of transferring her money weekly instead of fortnightly so that she regained her confidence in being able to pay her bills. Understanding dementia is key to providing good customer service and supporting people to continue to live in the community. Find out more about the types of dementia and the warning signs, which include: confusion about time and place; poor judgement; difficulty performing familiar tasks, and problems with words. Memory loss, or forgetfulness is the most likely first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.