Innovative Approach to Nursing Home Design
For some time, it’s been known in dementia care that dementia and Alzheimer’s residents are soothed and stimulated by things they have known in the past, such as songs, fashions, news or familiar objects. Many NHS nurses and nursing home staff work with these residents to put together memory boxes that can help them remember the past happily.
The NHS tells us that a multi-sensory approach can be important to people with memory loss, especially those with more advanced dementia. Colours, sounds and objects that can be felt and handled may become more important when reading or conversation do not offer the same interest they once did. Nursing home dementia care often includes sessions that stimulate the senses in this way.
Revolutionary Dementia Living Facility
Now an American provider of assisted living facilities, Jean Makesh, has taken these ideas to a whole new level by designing a revolutionary living space for both dementia care and Alzheimers care residents in nursing homes.
It’s easy for residents to lose track of the time of day when they are in a care home. Their biological clocks can be disrupted by the lack of sunlight or the lack of change in light levels at night. Let’s face it, many of us might have trouble keeping track of breakfast time in this kind of environment. So Makesh has designed an environment that gives the residents lots of clues about the natural world and daylight.
Instead of a dull set of ceiling panels, the residents have a digital sky overhead, complete with fluffy clouds. As the day progresses, the sky grows dimmer to give a sense of the day passing and to keep everyone’s biological clocks correctly tuned. The residents live in little houses on an indoor street, with fences, shutters, and benches outside, just like the homes many of them will have grown up in.
Scents, such as peppermint and citrus, are piped into the area to stimulate the residents, and the environment is designed throughout to stimulate residents without making them anxious.
Improved Care in Recent Years
Other types of nursing home care may not have a digital sky, but many care homes do now encourage residents and residents to engage with their environment and perform any daily tasks that they are able to – after all, most of us are not used to being entertained all day. It’s often a case of seeing what someone’s previous job or hobby was and letting them access an activity, such as looking after a plant, that will actively engage them.
Fitness too is now seen as more important for the residents because of the sense of well-being it can confer, especially when people are confined indoors. Add in brain games and puzzles, and you begin to get a sense of how these residents can live a satisfying life which makes use of the cognitive functions and skills that they have.
Dementia care has moved on a great deal in the past few years. We no longer see dementia residents as passive and hopeless, and we are much more aware of their individuality despite the disease. Until we can find a cure, this is the approach we need to build on to gently support, engage and care for our loved ones.