The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre has produced an online ‘virtual home’, to show simple changes that can make life easier for someone living with dementia and extend the period of time they can live in their own home with good quality dementia care. The website: http://dementia.stir.ac.uk/virtualhome explains the importance of design and gives a room-by-room guide on how certain changes can transform the life of someone with dementia. Professor June Andrews from the dementia services unit explained that there “were some simple design things that could make a huge difference”.
Lighting is a prime area of concern for people with dementia and the light level should be increased above the level required by most people. Contrast is also important; dementia can sometimes cause problems with depth perception, so there should be a strong contrast between the walls and the floor in every room. This simple step significantly reduces the chances of falling. Contrasts are also important with furniture, especially around the dining table – making it easier to sit down to a meal.
In the kitchen, Professor Andrews recommends a cooker with a time-limited cut out mechanism, for safety reasons, and a glass fronted fridge, which had been shown to encourage people living with dementia to eat more regularly. The most important factor is keeping kitchens simple and clear.
In fact, simplicity is a theme running right through the university’s recommendations. Studies have shown that people living in dementia are happier and have a greater sense of security and wellbeing when they can live in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.