It’s not just the care that we provide for residents that is a bit different; we have made numerous changes to the house and gardens to ensure that these areas provide the best possible environment for the people who use our service. These changes are in response to research material that evidences how certain design and environmental features can result in significant improvements in the quality of life for people with dementia living in residential care homes.
As we get older our vision deteriorates as the result of normal age related changes; these include reduced night vision, less acuity, some colours being more difficult to see, reduced peripheral vision and being less able to detect the differences between objects that do not have strong colour contrasts. In older people with dementia these normal changes and other sensory changes cannot be understood or communicated in the same way as thinking ability and the ability to problem solve are affected by dementia. This can often result in the person with dementia making ‘visual mistakes’ as they try to make sense of what it is they are seeing. This can lead to the person feeling disorientated and frightened and their behaviour will change accordingly.
As well as the person needing input from skilled staff to help to reduce their fear there are numerous design features that can help to reduce these visual misperceptions; we have prioritised lighting, signposting, use of colour and other visual cues when making changes to the environment at Aranlaw so that the people who use our service feel a sense of wellbeing and reassurance in an environment that encourages familiarity and feels ‘homelike’
We use special signage to assist recognition where needed; specially commissioned bedroom door plaques are in place, these contain the occupants name and a picture or visual image that may help the resident to locate their room. Brightly coloured images portray different themes on each of our corridors, such as a street, garden or beach themed corridors. The different scenes and brightly coloured familiar images stimulate the visual senses of the person with dementia and greatly assist in helping residents recognise where they are and to find their way around more easily. Our handrails are all topped with a brightly coloured band that helps residents to locate the handrail and increases their safety and independence when walking. Probably most striking of all are the brightly coloured bedroom and toilet doors which can be more easily seen by those people who have visual loss or problems with identifying contrast.
Outside our gardens are secured by a wall and wooden gates that can only be opened via a coded key pad. Many of our residents like to sit at the front of the building and watch people and traffic as it goes up and down Tower road. We also have a sheltered decked area outside of the ground floor lounge that is often used for activities. Our rear garden is fully enclosed and specifically designed to be a space that older people with dementia will benefit from using. There is a continuous walkway that allows for residents to walk safely around the sensory garden, using the handrail to support them and feeling the sense of well-being that comes from the sight, smells and memories they might have of certain plants or trees whilst getting fresh air and exercise in a secure environment. There is also a patio area and a fully accessible raised flower bed as a focal point.