World Alzheimer’s Week is upon us again, and you may have seen this article floating around social media. There’s no denying it’s incredible stuff. An entire assisted living facility in the US has been re-designed to create an indoor neighbourhood for those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. From putting front porches on each bedroom door, to installing a digital sky so that the residents know whether it’s day or night time, this care environment has created a sort of nostalgic safe haven for people who can often be thrown off by the slightest things. As if this home isn’t impressive enough, there is even a whole Dementia-friendly village called Hogewey in the Netherlands – complete with shops and hair salons to make sure that those who live there can be afforded with some independence and happiness in their last chapters of life.
The fact is that 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with Dementia. This is projected to rise to over 1 million by 2025, and then to 2 million by 2051. When you do the maths it works out that every 3 minutes, someone is diagnosed with Dementia. For lack of a better metaphor, Dementia is a big boulder rolling downhill gaining momentum with nothing in sight to stop it in its tracks.
You can however slow it down. For years research has shown that mental stimulation can slow the decay of the mind, allowing those with Dementia to remain clear-headed for longer. Their environment has a lot to do with promoting mental stimulation and calmness, and care facilities need to adapt to fit these needs. Don’t worry – we know that not everyone can afford to duplicate what they’ve done in Ohio and Hogewey, but we have a few suggestions to help make sure that care homes look like homes and not hospitals.
First and foremost, the environment needs to look like a normal house or room. Many Dementia patients panic at the sight of hospital equipment. Mobile and ceiling track hoists can look daunting to those who may have forgotten what they’re there for. That’s why things like the Integralift Hidden Hoist are perfect for creating calming care environments. The combination of cutting edge technology and aesthetic beauty means that this easy-to-use hoist can all fold away into a cupboard-like unit. The simplistic and completely domestic structure poses no source of distress to the patient, and it makes the bedroom look more cosy and homely – exactly what the resident needs to focus on activities that are more mentally stimulating. We actually installed one of these in a model care room at Stirling University, allowing students of the specialist Dementia centre to study and examine its benefits!
This leads on to the bed itself. Given that this is the primary place where the resident will be resting and relaxing, we believe it’s imperative that their bed should fit their needs. Hospital beds with side rails and other unsightly functions can upset certain individuals who may have spent some time in hospital, so beds from the Eclipse range would be ideal for shedding this clinical image and blending into the environment. With the options for lower mattress platforms and wheeled bases for manoeuvrability, the resident’s needs can be catered to perfectly without compromising the organic, homely environment needed to slow the effects of Dementia. We also have the Lowline Ultra Low Bed for individuals who are perhaps less mobile. This bed can lower to a mere 10cm from the ground, making it easier to transfer on and off of, whilst minimising any possible injury from falling out of bed.
Of course we also know that Dementia patients like to move around a lot in bed. Restlessness and poor sleeping habits can stem from a lot of things, one of which could be aches and pains when laid on a standard mattress. Fortunately, the Somlent models can give a variety of benefits to tailor the needs of each person. These mattresses use air and cell structure to contour and keep the user comfortable at bedtime. They also subtly stimulate and relieve various areas of the body to prevent the development of bed sores – a common problem for Dementia sufferers. Conveniently, they can fit on any of the Eclipse beds and the Lowline model, making them key equipment in palliative and Dementia care.
A lovely set of drawers and a wardrobe would complement this calm and cosy bedroom environment. We have a specific line of Dementia bedroom furniture specifically designed to facilitate the needs of the client whilst seamlessly blending into the care environment. Our wardrobes and drawers have all been uniquely designed to allow the user to see the contents of each compartment. The drawers all have a crescent-shaped cut-out, meaning that the resident can easily see what is in each compartment and therefore reducing any unnecessary stress or confusion when looking for items of clothing. The wardrobe also has an open section for the same purpose. This furniture comes in a range of finishes to coordinate as closely as possible with the other bedroom components.
Our Arene rise and recline chairs would also be a complimentary and supremely useful addition to the resident’s room. Designed specifically for hospices and care environments, these chairs can give long-lasting comfort and offer features to help make the user more mobile. The rise and recline function can help individuals stand and sit comfortably without any physical strain. This will help to keep residents active to increase stimulation both physically and mentally, and therefore combat the deterioration caused by Dementia.
The research speaks for itself; if you create a clear, calming environment, instances of violence are reduced massively. Residents may still be confused, but at least they’ll feel at home surrounded by furniture like this. And if that helps to slow down the Dementia boulder, then we think it’s an investment worth making.