Adjusting to online platforms for our work and social life during the pandemic was relatively easy for many. But for some, the situation isn’t so easy. This can be the case for people with dementia or those who get confused easily with anything tech. Zoom is relatively easy to use, but it is good to get some help. Dementia Australia has developed a useful guide and fact sheets that are useful for everyone.
In a media release, Dementia Australia reminds us that there are an estimated 459,00 Australians living with dementia. Most live in the community and need to use technology to stay in touch with family and health care professionals.
Editor’s note: For all professional meetings, remember that live captioning helps everyone get the message. It’s inclusive practice. The big advantage is the transcript that follows. It’s essential for webinars especially if they are made available after the event. It’s about being inclusive.
The Dementia Enabling Environments website has a page on home designideas. Some of them are simple and cost nothing, but might not be obvious to the casual observer. The Adapt a House page has a floor plan of five rooms: living room, kitchen/dining, bedroom, bathroom and laundry. It’s interactive, so clicking on a room brings up more detail. For example, in the kitchen they suggest see-through doors on wall cabinets. If replacing an appliance, match it closely to the existing one. In the bedroom colour contrasts are important for finding the bed and other furniture. Block-out blinds on the windows help differentiate between day and night, especially in the summertime. There is lots more information and resources on the website.
The Dementia Enabling Environments web tool was developed by Alzheimer’s WA.
There’s also help for bathroom fittings from HEWI. Dr. Birgit Dietz explains the background thoughts in the development of the age and dementia-sensitive washbasin, which she designed together with HEWI. She claims that qualitative studies show that the colour red is most easily perceived by people with dementia. Red is also the most easily registered colour for people with age-related vision impairment or inoperable eye diseases, for example, macular degeneration. The dementia washbasin is therefore also suitable for people with low vision. Go to the Hewi webpage for more designs.
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. This is what some people with dementia and other cognitive conditions perceive.
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 articleabout 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. Dementia affects the ability to navigate the environment successfully because of changes in visual perception.
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.
Practitioners and researchers are seeking more solutions for people with sensory and cognitive impairments, particularly dementia. But our building standards are silent on this growing issue. The value of designing an age-friendly environment is discussed in an article by Hadjri, Afacan, and Gadakari. As with all universal design features, the authors argue inclusion needs to be embedded in the early stages of design. See the abstract below for more on the content.
Abstract: This chapter will explain and discuss the principles, role and importance of Inclusive Design particularly in the context of an ageing society. It will review the changing and complex user needs and requirements through case studies and current work of leading organizations. Current standards used in the UK and elsewhere will be reviewed to establish whether they need to take into account sensory and cognitive impairments into consideration. So far, these have not been fully accepted by industry and practice and more needs to be done by policy makers. Findings of recent research on users’ needs and requirements will be reviewed to highlight the needs for more inclusivity in the design of the built environment. Additionally, barrier-free design and Inclusive Design will be further examined to assess the use of technology in embedding accessibility during the design stage. This chapter will allow students, lecturers and designers to understand the value and purpose of Inclusive Design and its potential to provide an accessible and age-friendly built environment.
You will need institutional access for a free read, otherwise purchase the chapter. You can also try ResearchGate to ask for a free read.