Designing hospitals with dementia in mind

A long wide corridor with lots of confusing lines in a hospital. Need to design with dementia in mind.Most of us feel vulnerable in hospital environments. Usually it’s because of their size, lots of people, corridors and signs. For people with dementia and other cognitive conditions, this can be extra scary. A team of researchers in Ireland gathered the research on designing hospitals with dementia in mind and similar cognitive conditions. They’ve come up with key design themes which are expanded upon in their article:

    • Support engagement and participation
    • Provide a people-centred environment
    • Support patient safety, wellbeing, and health
    • Balance sensory stimulation
    • Support legibility, orientation and navigation’
    • Adequate space to support the particular needs of a person with a cognitive conditions. 
    • Space and supports for accompanying persons and staff

The title of the Cochrane Review article is, Hospital design for older people with cognitive impairment including dementia and delirium: supporting inpatients and accompanying persons. It’s by Grey, Fleming, Goodenough, XIdous, Mohler, and O’Neill.

From the abstract

The aim of the study was to assess the effects of planning and design of hospitals, and to find out which approaches and features affect the health and wellbeing of older inpatients with cognitive condition such as dementia and delirium.

The study also assessed the effects of built environment interventions on accompanying persons. The focus was on any design feature that supports any person accompanying the patient in the hospital. The study also assessed the effects of built environment interventions on staff who are providing care to older patients with cognitive conditions. 

Universal design and dementia friendly hospitals

Front cover of the documentAcademic research and consumer input underpins this comprehensive guide to designing dementia-friendly hospitals from a universal design approach. The guide was developed in Ireland where they estimate almost one third of patients have dementia. Of course, dementia friendly design using a universal design approach is good and inclusive for everyone. The guidelines are available to read online using Issuu software. 

The short video below provides an overview of the design factors to consider in creating a dementia friendly hospital.

Dementia friendly hospitals: An in-depth study

A hosptial room with three empty beds. It looks very clinical and not dementia friendly. The design of the hospital environment can have an effect on people with dementia. That’s the finding of some new research carried out in hospitals where they interviewed patients and family members. 

The title of the article is, Dementia Friendly Hospital Design: Key Issues for Patients and Accompanying Persons in an Irish Acute Care Public Hospital  You will need institutional access for a free read. Or you can go to ResearchGate and ask for the full text

From the abstract

The findings are based on a stakeholder engagement process. The research team spent approximately 150 hours observing within the hospital, administered 95 questionnaires to patients and/or accompanying persons. Two structured interviews were carried out with patients and accompanying persons. 

This research confirms the negative impact of the acute hospital setting on older people with cognitive impairments including dementia and delirium. The research points to the value of understanding the lived experience of the person with dementia and accompanying persons. The voices of patients, particularly persons with dementia, are a crucial element in helping hospitals to fulfill their role as caregiving and healing facilities. 

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