General Dementia-Friendly Design
Through the renovations of our office space, we were able to incorporate elements of dementia friendly design throughout the entire process. We wanted to create an environment that was engaging, comfortable, and easy to navigate.
It is important to remember that individuals with dementia may be experiencing impaired reasoning, and may struggle to use items that now seem unfamiliar to them. With this in mind, we wanted to ensure that we made spaces, objects and devices clear, familiar, easy to navigate and use, and free from clutter.
We chose doors with lever handles rather than round knobs. Lever handles are less confusing than round knobs, and can be easier to operate.
We chose to place TrueDoors® decals on each of our office doors. True Door decals are person centred solutions that can assist with wayfinding while also transforming spaces into warm and familiar homelike environments.
Each of our employees choose their own True Door that had meaning for them.
We chose a neutral, pattern free carpet for a few reasons.
Dementia can cause difficulty with spatial orientation and may cause everyday objects to be perceived differently. Reflective or shiny flooring can be very confusing for those living with dementia as they can be perceived to be wet or look like water. Likewise, dark flooring or tiles can look like a hole in the floor, and speckled or patterned flooring can look like there is dirt on the floor. All of these option can cause confusion, fear, and even frustration.
Another benefit to our choice to use carpeting in our space is that it helps to absorb sound, and therefore help to reduce overstimulation and potential confusion.
Difficulties with sight and perception can cause people to misinterpret the world around them, further fuelling the confusion and isolation they’re already feeling. The use of different colours, particularly those that contrast, has been proven to make life a little easier for those living with dementia. Using colour contrasting can also assist with wayfinding. In our space, we chose a neutral color that could easily be contrasted with darker or lighter hues to help distinguish or camouflage certain rooms in the space, or to highlight certain objects, like the toilet seat in the washroom.
Where ever possible, we made sure to choose furniture that clearly indicates the purpose of the space, and that is not abstract. Some more modern furniture, although sometimes an attractive alternative, may not clearly indicate the room’s purpose.
Lighting is important in dementia-friendly spaces. Well lit rooms help compensate for the deterioration in vision that may occur as Alzheimer's or dementia progresses. A well lit room throughout the day will also help regulate circadian rhythm, and eliminate possible sources of confusion or shadows.
Some of the actions we took in to achieve this in our space are leaving blinds open as much as possible to allow the space to be lit with natural light, and to use higher watt light bulbs.
In our space, because we have push button light switches rather than the traditional toggle light switches, we decided to use a label on each appropriate space in a highly contrasting colour indicating where the on and off positions are.
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