With Dignity In Mind

James Dadd, Marketing Director at AKW, specialist in bathroom solutions, discusses how thoughtful design processes can help

combat the issues visual impairment can cause for carers when ensuring safety, whilst promoting independence.

The aim of any care or nursing home is to promote the dignity of its residents, no matter what their individual circumstances. However, to uphold this can be particularly difficult when trying to combine personal hygiene and resident choice.

Ensuring that the

physical environment supports the

independence of

residents is one piece in the puzzle of

promoting their dignity whilst ensuring safety.

The Care Standards for Nursing Homes highlights that one of the key drivers behind improving the quality and consistency of care is to ensure that the arrangements for health and personal care guarantees that the resident is respected and their rights to privacy and dignity are upheld at all times. It states that residents should be enabled to exercise choices and give their consent regarding the provision of intimate care. The difficulty for carers comes when the residents’ decision would put them at physical risk.

As stated in the care standards, ‘the quality of the internal and external

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environment of the nursing home impacts directly on the quality of life for the residents and staff’. With visual impairment a common problem across many age-related conditions, creating a physical environment that promotes independence for as long as possible should be a priority for any care or nursing home. In addition, changes undertaken to make a bathroom accessible to the visually impaired will equally help people with other conditions that affect cognitive ability, as well as low vision.


IMPAIRMENT? One study found that people with sight loss are more likely to struggle with mobility, washing, dressing and completing day-to-day tasks, as well as experiencing more pain and anxiety than those without visual problems. Common challenges those with visual impairment experience in the bathroom include: difficulties with orientation, poor depth perception, issues with locating items within a room (usually due to lack of definition) and less confidence due to fear of engaging independently in activities.

KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER It is generally accepted that the following elements are instrumental in protecting individuals with sight loss and allowing them to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible, offering them increased choice surrounding their personal care:

Lighting - Lighting the task, not the room, is key to safety in the bathroom for the visually impaired. Good lighting will ensure safety and security, but instead of focusing on illuminating a whole room it is imperative instead to implement task-specific lighting. For example, bright lights above the basin that illuminate the area where someone will wash their hands or brush their teeth will be most effective. Indeed, halving the distance between the light and the task being performed can increase visual acuity fourfold. It is also important to use non-reflective materials to reduce glare.

Contrast - Although some would think ‘the brighter the colour, the better’ - hence why a lot of companies install red grab rails, for example - the key issue isn’t the colour of the item, but the clarity of contrast against its surroundings. Correct contrast is absolutely crucial in enhancing a bathroom for the visually impaired.

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