The number of people with Dementia in the UK predicted to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Soaring to 2 million by 2051. However, 95% of homes lack even basic accessibility features. We believe that building dementia friendly and being aware of disability during construction stages will make a very big difference in the near future; and set a necessary standard for the future.
What to expect in this article:
- This article will give you tips to make your home or care home Dementia Friendly.
- Key statistics from Alzheimers Society
- Reasons why the construction industry should be focussing on, and building for, Dementia and disability – in every project
Over 225,000 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.
According to Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia support and research charity, there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. With the number of people with Dementia in the UK predicted to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Soaring to 2 million by 2051.
Worldwide, the number of people living with dementia is expected to double every 20 years.
As a construction company, these dramatic figures demonstrate that considering Dementia during new build projects and renovations could make a very real difference to a huge number of people and their families – in the not-too-distant-future. Maybe even to our own friends and family; or for you and I.
70 percent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. Horizon Building Contractors specialise in renovating nursing and care homes, so this research is of particular relevance to our work. But, we believe Dementia should be a consideration in any project; and that this extra knowledge and consideration of disability will add value to homes by future-proofing them, regardless of sector.
Because of our speciality, we have put extra effort into learning how to create ‘Dementia Friendly’ homes, working environments and dementia friendly public areas by making considerations throughout every stage of a project. Being Dementia Friends, we know that sharing a little bit of knowledge and experience can go a long way to helping to make the world that little bit more accessible.
Creating or adapting a home for those with a disability can offer up extra challenges to contractors and builders. But, there are some simple things that can make a big difference. Read on to discover a few of these.
We believe Dementia should be a consideration in any project; and that this extra knowledge and consideration of disability will add value to homes by future-proofing them, regardless of sector.
Noise levels that are acceptable to care staff and family members may have a distressing effect on people with dementia on a day-to-day basis. When designing dementia friendly homes, it is necessary to reduce the levels of external noise and the impact of noise pollution as much as possible.
By focusing on acoustics during construction stages, you can cut down some seemingly innocuous yet profoundly disorientating issues for those with Dementia. These ‘built-in’ considerations could potentially have a positive effect for decades; reducing the need for future renovations when the ever approaching statistics as mentioned above become real.
For instance, when building new homes, reduce the use of materials with high-sound transference like plasterboard and brickwork. Reducing air passages and gaps around doors will also create a more insulated environment. Wall coverings and curtains can also absorb noise if you are satisfied that they will not cause any confusion or disorientation.
When designing dementia-friendly homes, avoid uneven floors. Floor mats, rugs and wide grooved flagstone tiling, for example, can make for tripping risks that could result in injury. People with Dementia are more likely to suffer from visual impairment* which increases this risk further.
Similarly, when adding electronics to the home, use ties and other cable management tools to ensure that appliances don’t become a hazard, too.
Visual consistency and texture in the floor and walls are important, too. This is because small details that might negligible to most people may be distracting or confusing to users with dementia.
For instance, a floor that has a shiny finish could instead look wet. Dark surfaces can seem to be holes. A wall with a speckled design may look dirty or smudged, convincing the user that it needs to be cleaned. It is also worth avoiding colours that are evocative of real things, like how blue can look like water or green floors can look like grass. We always recommend plain matt flooring or carpeting.
Colours can be confusing when misused in the home, but they can also be used effectively to help users better navigate and understand the home. For instance, painting the door to the bathroom a different colour from the other doors can help users recognise and access the bathroom when it’s needed.
“Painting bedroom doors in a range of colours in a care home assists people to find their rooms. It can help if the colour used is similar to that of the front door of a resident’s previous home.” The Dementia Services Development Centre
Contrast can be used to highlight all kinds of things in the home. Neutral colours can be used for floors and walls, while switches, railings, and handrails will seem more visually prominent in a different colour. Similarly, furniture and bedding can be easier to recognise if it is picked out in a contrasting colour. As with flooring, avoid patterns which can cause visual illusions or confusion.
⚠ Important note: According to The Dementia Services Development Centre; Contrasting edges can be perceived as a barrier by some people with dementia. In such circumstances,
Memory problems make it easy for those living with Dementia to forget where things are kept; even in their own homes. Homes and buildings without any signage or visual cues can manifest a lot of disorientation and frustration for people with dementia.
But, as you may have guessed this one is a simple fix. Labels on cupboards, drawers, and doors make it a lot easier for users to know where they are going and what they can find in different areas of the home. Signage can also include directions that allow the user to better navigate. Note: Ensure signage is clear and highlighted using contrasting colours to it’s surrounding.
For users that have a visual impairment, pictures or easily recognised icons can be used on signage, too. Furthermore, specific areas can be allocated for appliances so that they are always easy to find. If it safe to do so, you may even want to include cupboards and wardrobes without doors so as to make them even more accessible.
Good lighting allows us to see clearly and create a sense of place within the home. As we get older, we may need more light to see. Furthermore, for Dementia sufferers, the ability of the brain affected by dementia to process visual signals is greatly diminished. A lack of appropriate lighting can cause distress and confusion, making it difficult for them to recognise and navigate their environment. When building a dementia-friendly home, improving access to natural light is crucial.
This can be done by ensuring that window treatments, furniture, and plants aren’t blocking light from coming in form outside. Furthermore, brighter or extra lights can be used to maintain full visibility without complicated controls. Proper light and furniture placement need to be undertaken to prevent dark areas and shadows across the floor – which can be frightening.
Finally, if you are hiring contractors to complete this type of work, ensure that they understand the needs and requirements of your users. If you are a contractor about to embark on dementia-related construction or renovation work, we would recommend you raise as many questions as you need to with the care home staff or management and fully brief your team.
Knowing the needs of the user is key to any successful construction project These are just a few of considerations that can make a difference. Horizon Building Contractors specialise in building, renovating and anticipating the needs of our healthcare industry clients including care homes, residential nursing homes and dental practices. We want more homes to be a comfort and help, and not a source of worry.
Do you suffer with Dementia; or do you have a colleague or family member with Dementia? Share your tips with us; and share this article to help build a more dementia friendly future.
*In the UK, people over the age of 65 have a 1 in 7 chance of having a visual impairment and a 1 in 14 chance of being diagnosed with dementia. This means that many people who are living with dementia are also likely to have a visual impairment. The symptoms of dementia such as confusion or disorientation can be made to feel worse by inability to clearly see important visual clues such as friendly faces or street signs.