Our Dementia Strategy: Theme Four

Theme Four: Personalised Care and Environment

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Last year, we launched our Balhousie Dementia Strategy, which has six themes designed to inform, support and influence the very best in dementia care. We wanted to let you know a little more about it, about how we’re implementing it within our homes and some of our people who have embraced it…

The fourth theme in the dementia strategy is a focus on creating personalised care in a positive environment.

Every person living with dementia is affected differently, with a wide range of requirements and needs for their care. This makes it vital to design a care home environment that is not only comfortable, safe and stimulating for residents but also one that does not compromise on creating a living environment that is aesthetically pleasing and unique in its design concept.

Best practice guidelines

At Balhousie, we have a dedicated Interior Architect who works closely with staff and residents to create and implement best practice guidelines for creating the personalised environment within our homes. Lesley Birrell is Balhousie Care Group’s Interior Architect and has been working within our portfolio of 24 care homes for the last eighteen months. With over 9 years-experience as a nurse before going on to study architecture in the US, France and at Edinburgh College of Art, Lesley knows first-hand the impact that environment can have on those visiting, living and working within it.

“There are many considerations to take into account when designing for the care home environment” Lesley points out. “As we age, many conditions can affect the clarity and definition of how we see things and because of this, the need for visual contrast within the environment increases. Our sense of balance and coordination is reduced as well as our physical strength, so the likely hood of trips and falls occurring is greatly increased. The design of all elements of the home needs to take these factors into consideration.”

Dementia-friendly environments

A personalised, dementia-friendly environment for all our residents is a key part of our wider dementia strategy. Our Dementia Consultant Yvonne works closely with Lesley to ensure environmental dementia guidelines are followed across each of our homes.

Use of simple designs and pictures containing easy to identify and consistent images goes a long way to helping residents to feel calm and relaxed within the care home environment. The careful selection of artwork that portrays places familiar to the residents or which contain images relevant to earlier times in their lives can also form part of a wider program of “reminiscence therapy” for older residents.

How furniture is arranged within public areas is also a critical element in designing living environments that encourage socialisation and interaction between residents. Arranging seating to create areas where smaller groups of residents can sit in close proximity, but also with relative privacy, to have more intimate conversations goes a long way to facilitating communication.

Careful use of signage and other indicators of a rooms function can also be employed to help those with dementia find their way safely around the home. Clearly written signs in bold contrasting text on a plain background should of course be used to identify the location and function of public rooms, bedrooms and bathroom facilities. However, residents can be visually impaired or may have developed problems with reading and the use of images, decorative objects or 3D box frame collages to provide pictorial signage also serves a very important function.

How we’re working together

Creating a positive and personalised environment is a collaborative effort. In developing the layouts and designs for the home Lesley spends time discussing the specific needs of the staff and residents. As part of this process input into the selection of colours, materials, furnishings, floor coverings and lighting was obtained from everyone who would be living and working within the home. The final choice of art work and ornaments to be placed around the home was also made based on sessions with the residents where their preferences for specific artists, images and themes were explored. Interactive hands-on sessions were also organised where residents created their own artwork for the home.   

Speaking about the renovation work that took place at our Moyness home, Lesley describes why she believes working together has such a positive impact. “Whether it’s the residents who live within the home, or the staff that work there, if everybody is involved in creating the right environment, there’s a sense of ownership of the project and pride in what they’ve helped to achieve. When you visit Moyness, the impact that the refurbishment has had on the atmosphere is clear to see when you visit the home.”

Take a look at some of the projects within our homes that show how we’re working together to create unique and personalised areas within our homes, such as the recent refurbishment at Moyness and Clement Park’s Dementia Garden. Other examples of some personal projects include Pitlochry and their special residents gallery, which includes paintings done by one of the residents and Dalnaglar, who have a family tree in their lounge with pictures of residents.