Moving into a care home is a huge decision, especially if the patient has a complex medical condition that requires specialist attention. Dementia is a particularly challenging condition to manage as its progression can be unpredictable.
Having dementia can be extremely confusing and frightening, so a safe and comforting home environment is vital. Below are a few helpful tips on how to design a dementia-friendly care home to improve residents’ lives.
When caring for patients with dementia, they must have their own safe space to feel comfortable in — usually their bedroom. However, whether your care home is small or large, it can be difficult for patients to find their bedroom door when faced with many to choose from.
So, it’s a good idea to make this navigation route as easy as possible. To do this, you can paint doors in a contrasting colour, or you could use dementia door wraps for care homes and hospitals. You could also personalise their doors with a sign or add familiar pictures or photographs that they may recognise.
Patients with dementia can experience additional struggles with their hearing. They can have difficulty processing and understanding what they hear— as well as how they respond to sounds — which can lead to difficulty with their communication. This added stress can lead to the patient feeling anxious, frustrated and scared. So it’s important to try and reduce excess noise where possible.
Noise levels in a care home can quickly build-up, but there are several things you can do to help. Add more carpets, cushions and curtains as these absorb background noise. If nobody is paying attention to the radio or TV, turn them off. Finally, it’s important to organise regular hearing tests for patients to monitor their hearing as hearing aids can greatly benefit them.
Being able to tell the time is an important skill that we often take for granted as it helps us to orientate ourselves. However, as dementia progresses, time-telling skills can decline or be completely lost, leading to patients with dementia feeling confused and anxious. While they may not be able to tell the time, you can help them out by making it clear whether it’s day or night.
Check that natural light has a clear path into the care home — consistently open curtains in daylight hours, add larger windows or skylights or turn up the lights brighter. Additionally, ensure bedrooms are dark enough at night to improve sleep.
Healthy folk often take it for granted that they can go outside when they feel like it, to enjoy fresh air, sunlight on the face and to look at plants and trees. However, patients in care homes don’t always get the option. Spending time in the natural environment has been shown to have a beneficial effect on people’s overall sense of wellbeing as it can reduce stress levels, increase self-esteem, allow for activity and sociability and provide an opportunity to connect with nature.
To encourage outside time, create a safe and secure garden space with seats to sit on so patients can easily pop outside and come back in again when they’re ready. Time in the garden can be spent drinking a cup of tea, doing some gardening, sitting on a garden recliner chair, feeding the birds or listening to music — every little helps.
The number of people needing dementia care is rising, making this an area of increasing focus. Read our dementia care guide for more information.