When creating dementia inclusive interior design schemes for a care environment you have to consider many elements.
A well-designed interior scheme can aid with navigation, enhance confidence in movement and promote inclusion in the home’s community, plus it can also ease reactive behaviours that are triggered by fear, anxiety and unease.
Some elements that should be taken into consideration include:
- Building and furniture layout
- Reminiscence areas
- Outdoor space, and
From the list above there are many elements where the products chosen for the floors can have a profound impact on someone living with dementia. From the moment you leave your bed in the morning your body comes into contact with the floor and your eyes are drawn to the floor to help with moving safely.
For those of us who do not have a cognitive impairment the flooring colour and finish will have little influence on us, but for someone living with dementia, the flooring can impact many of their senses and how they use and navigate their environment. So let's look closer at some of the elements that will help you to create dementia inclusive interior design schemes.
By providing clear signs, wayfinding, and sensory cues you can help residents navigate their surroundings and carpets can play a key role in this.
For those living with dementia familiarity is significant so it’s important to bear in mind that laminate flooring only became popular in the UK in the last 20-30 years. So those living within care environments today would have grown up and lived with carpets throughout their own homes for the majority of their life.
Having LVT or vinyl flooring in a care home bedroom or lounge will feel and look unfamiliar to residents. The rooms may look more like a clinical setting such as a hospital rather than their home, their bedroom or their lounge. This may result in them becoming agitated and restricted to rooms where they do feel more at ease.
Colour coding areas or even levels of a building can also help with orientation and wayfinding and using a different colour carpet for each area can help with independent movement around the home.
Lighting can have a profound effect on how someone feels and sees things, it can also affect their circadian rhythm. It’s important to use natural light and appropriate artificial lighting to enhance visibility and create a calm atmosphere.
When it comes to flooring it’s important not to use shiny surfaces as these can appear wet or slippery to someone with dementia. If the surfaces are reflecting a lot of light, it can also make it difficult for someone to see properly, which could cause a lack of confidence in movement and navigation which could lead to feelings of isolation.
Highly shiny or reflective surfaces can also cause eye strain and with deteriorating eyesight at this stage in life, it’s important to ensure interior schemes help with seeing things as clearly as possible rather than causing irritation or potential pain.
Colour choice is very important, but as we all know colour preference is very subjective and one person may relate to a colour that another dislikes strongly.
However, when it comes to colour contrast there are principles you can abide by to help enhance visibility and reduce confusion and that’s by using a colour's Light Reflectance Value (LRV).
LRV is a measure of the percentage of visible and usable light that is reflected from a surface when illuminated by a light source. LRVs are particularly important when designing interiors that are suitable for the disabled and for those who are visually impaired or living with a cognitive impairment.
Certain surfaces and features are required to contrast visually within their surroundings to aid navigation and equating colour with an LRV makes this achievable. Current guidance and Code of Practice BS 8300:2009 states that adequate visual contrast is provided if the LRV of the contrasting areas differ by at least 30 points.
At the other end of the scale if you would like to ensure there is a smooth transition from one area to another, for example from the bedroom to the ensuite facility, then all flooring finishes and any joining strips that connect the carpet with the flooring in the en-suite should be within 8 LRV points. This will ensure someone with dementia sees consistency in colour and will not be deterred from moving from one flooring finish to another.
Considered use of colour can significantly improve a visually impaired person’s way-finding ability. It can create pathways, identify obstacles and define volume and space helping to make the physical environment safer and easier to use.
Using different textures in flooring, walls, and furniture helps to provide sensory stimulation, however, when it comes to textures in flooring you have to ensure that the carpets aren’t too dense, in terms of the number of tufts, so it doesn’t hinder those who like to shuffle, or for those that use walking aids and wheelchairs.
The carpet pile shouldn’t be too high either to ensure an easy transition from one area to another, such as the bedroom to the ensuite facility. If an elderly person feels they need to elongate their step from one area to another it could increase the chance of trips and falls.
Texture and even patterns in designs should also be minimal when considering flooring for dementia. For example, a corridor carpet with a strongly contrasting pattern like black circles on a light background could be misinterpreted by someone with dementia. They may see a corridor with lots of holes that need to be walked around, causing much stress and confusion.
In addition to all of these points when selecting a flooring finish for a non-clinical healthcare environment it should assist with effective cleaning and maintenance as well as infection prevention and control. Therefore, if your carpets can include an antimicrobial yarn treatment with a log reduction of 99.99%, easy-to-clean yarns and an impervious membrane you’re onto a win-win situation.
Why not view our collection of carpets that have been approved for use with dementia inclusive design schemes by the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre and include many innovative performance features.