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News archive - February 2016

Designing for dementia

Designing for dementia

According to Alzheimer’s Society reports, up to 70% of care home residents in the UK have dementia or significant memory loss and about 25% of all hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia.

Clearly, therefore, design for dementia is not a niche specialism, but rather a must-have for the healthcare built environment.

Focusing on simple design principles can maximise independence, reinforce personal identity and enhance confidence.

Having safe surroundings that can be navigated easily reduces the impact of some dementia symptoms, helping to avoid stress and prevent slips, trips and falls.

For people living with dementia, the stress that confusion due to unfamiliar and unsafe surroundings can cause means a real risk of a slip or fall. Looking at elderly care in general, age-related changes to our sense of sight mean that poor lighting or badly-chosen flooring can be a real danger.

This means safety flooring is a must-have in a care home or hospital environment. But it’s not always easy to choose the most-appropriate one.

Specifiers should always choose flooring with a Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of ≥36, which reduces the chance of slipping to one in a million - and should check whether this lasts for the lifetime of the flooring.

Durability is important, too. Think about scuffing and other damage that can be caused by wheelchairs, walking sticks or other walking aids, and choose flooring that is up to the task.

Light reflection

Subtle differences between floors, walls, steps and doorways can cause enough uncertainty to result in a fall.

While colour choice is a factor; it is the amount of light reflected from surfaces that is the main factor in determining a person’s ability to identify different surfaces.

Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) are the best way to measure contrast. Every material has an LRV marked out of 100 points. To meet requirements, have at least a 30 point variance in LRVs between adjacent surfaces such as floors and walls. Since the Equality Act of 2010, this is a legal requirement.

In the know

Health Building Note (HBN) 08-02: Dementia-friendly health and social care environments, published by the Department of Health in March 2015, outlines design principles and features to aid the design of new-builds or refurbishment projects. And at Altro we offer our own set of guidelines based around the design principles of the HBN.

Here is our top tips for choosing the right flooring for dementia environments.

  • Use slip-resistant flooring
  • Use matt, sparkle-free flooring as obvious patterns and sparkles can cause distraction or look like something to pick up, which could result in a fall
  • Choose flooring with a Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of ≥36, which reduces the chance of slipping to one in a million, sustained for the lifetime of the flooring. Beware, not all safety flooring meets these criteria
  • In wet environments, avoid overly-textured flooring surfaces that could hurt sensitive bare feet
  • Avoid steps, or the misperception of steps due to reflections or patterns, in general areas that those with dementia may negotiate alone
  • Use flooring and wall solutions to create a non-institutional appearance
  • Use art or wall cladding to aid familiarity and help with wayfinding, as well as making people feel welcome
  • Ensure the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) of walls, flooring, and any other critical surfaces, differs by at least 30 points
  • Ensure the colour of walls, doors, floors and ceilings contrast to de-mark them

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