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Dementia, Design, and Being Well-Balanced

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December 12, 2018

Blog

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Avanti

People with dementia experience decreased learning, a decline in reasoning and impaired memory, thereby becoming more dependent on their senses. The design of the environment we live in largely impacts our health and mood, especially for people living with dementia. With its use of colors and lighting, good design can help to make it easier to perform daily tasks, helping to create an appropriate environment for your loved one, or to discover a care home designed for the needs of people with dementia, such as Avanti Senior Living.

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Everyone has abilities and needs which can change over time, and adjustments must be made to accommodate those changes. It is important to take a “person-centric” approach to ensure your loved one continues to be able to make their own choices and maintain their pride and self-esteem. The design and layout of Avanti Senior Living accommodates the residents’ day-to-day behaviors and distinctive physical and mental abilities, and ensures the safety of the entire community.

COLOR/CONTRAST

Color and contrast can be used to enable people with dementia to identify different rooms and key features inside their community. Avanti Senior Living’s color choices play an important part in ensuring people with dementia can navigate their surroundings, and identify familiar places.

Contrasting colors can be used on furniture, fittings and fixtures to help people navigate and interact with their surroundings, as well as drawing attention to key features which helps to avoid confusion. For instance, using a light switch that contrasts the wall’s color makes it easier to identify. In addition, step edges that are contrasted to stair treads and risers improve safety by helping to visually emphasize the change from flat surfaces to steps. Also, ensuring furniture is a different color to the floor makes it easier for people to navigate the room without fear of falling, while also making it easier to identify where they are and find their way around.

LIGHTING

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People with dementia need higher than normal levels of light in order to make sense of their environment. If lighting is not used correctly, it can make it harder to identify objects, create shadows, and change perceptions of the passing of time, all of which can cause confusion and distress for people with dementia. Avanti Senior Living’s use of natural light is the first important consideration, since people benefit from high levels of natural lighting. Natural lighting provides higher intensities of time as the light source changes throughout the day, making it easier for residents to maintain natural sleeping patterns. Windows also provide natural lighting in corridors, which is visually stimulating for residents, and can aid them in finding their way around.

Lighting preferences vary according to the individual. It is important that homes are designed or adapted to be flexible in terms of lighting conditions, and that residents are regularly consulted to identify any changes in their individual preferences and needs. Designing areas to enable residents to have choice and control in lighting levels can improve comfort and promote independence, and Avanti Senior Living does just that.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Avanti Senior Living recognizes the tremendous benefits that technology provides to residents. Avanti offers surround sound, music therapy, a theater area and much more, all of which provide stimulation and inspiration to all their residents, especially for those with dementia.

ICONS/SIGNAGE

People may not always find it easy to remember the significance of colors, so it may be helpful to have other visual cues in addition to color and/or contrast differentiation, such as pictures or signage. People with dementia can struggle to remember where things are kept, for example in drawers. Using transparent drawers or labels, pictures or icons to mark the contents inside will make it easier for residents to identify. For example, Avanti Senior Living’s Activity Room offers drawers for rummaging, providing residents with sensory stimulation, an important feature to those with dementia.

Icons and signs are also a great way to direct people to certain rooms, such as signs leading to the bathroom may include pictures or icons representing a shower or toilet, to remind users what the bathroom contains. Additionally, the dining room might provide a visual cue, such as an icon of a knife and fork to represent eating. Avanti makes use of appropriate signage to help memory care residents recognize where they are and to find their way around.

HANDRAILS

Having handrails in a color which contrasts with the wall makes them easier to find, encouraging people with dementia to explore their surroundings without fear of getting ‘stuck’. The rails should also include a feature to indicate where they end, such as a knob or the rail turning inwards. This will ensure that people who rely on handrails can feel when they have reached the end. Some people with dementia may find tactile markers, such as plastic bumps stuck to the underside of handrails, a useful way to navigate. Avanti Senior Living puts “sensory artwork” in the handrails as a unique feature, since most memory care residents will not stop and feel artwork on the wall, but will be inspired by the artwork in the handrails.

BATHROOMS

Good bathroom design can support more independence with washing, toileting and personal hygiene. Having additional lighting in the shower cubicle helps residents perform personal care tasks more independently. Also, toilet seats which contrast with the toilet and bathroom surfaces help people to find the toilet.

ENTRANCES/EXITS

Good design of entrances and exits is important for memory care residents, and all doorways should be wide enough to be easily accessible for people with different levels of mobility. Additionally, external entrances and exits should be designed to provide easy access to outdoor spaces.

OUTDOOR SPACES

It is important that people are able to access gardens and outdoor areas, as going outdoors has been shown to have multiple benefits including providing physical exercise, helping to maintain normal sleeping patterns, and improving mood. A well-designed outdoor space can be enjoyed by people with dementia, as well as their families, and having plants that make interesting sounds, like bamboos, grasses that rustle, or those that have pleasant smells and textures provide residents with additional sensory stimulation. Avanti Senior Living’s well-maintained walking paths and engaging courtyards help memory care residents find their way around while at the same time providing an atmosphere of tranquility.

It is easy to see how good design can facilitate independent living by helping memory care residents find their way unassisted. When making changes to a resident’s living space it is important to consider what that person needs and wants, and to attain the appropriate balance between protecting them from potential hazards and supporting their independence. Good design is not only valuable for creating a friendly environment for those with dementia, it also ensures safety, taking into account that as we age, our perceptions of our surroundings change. Avanti Senior Living’s innovation and unique amenities enrich the lives of their residents by providing the community with a relaxed and welcoming environment, encouraging independence and freedom of choice.

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