David Shannon is the Health Lead at New Vision, a national signage and display manufacturer specialising in products for the healthcare industry. Here, David highlights the importance of carefully-considered interior design when it comes to enhancing a care setting.

In care environments, oſten the hands- on personal care given is seen as the priority, and this is quite right. However, the value of the environment itself should not be underestimated and good interior design is a care home’s best friend in terms of creating an outstanding integrated care package.

Good design has the potential to both stimulate and soothe service users, and can have a significant positive impact on their wellbeing. It can also have real bottom-line benefits, including reduced medication bills, reductions in falls and accidents and reductions in challenging behaviour which can be demanding on staff.

We have worked with many designers and care providers, and have seen first-hand the benefits of good design. Based on this experience, we would break this down into four key areas of interior design:


Being unable to orientate yourself in the space you live in can be a great source of distress. This is true for anyone but has particular significance for those living with dementia who are oſten unable to interpret traditional cues and signage in the same way.

Appropriate signage is the lynchpin of effective wayfinding. It needs to be clear; communicating how to find somewhere and the purpose of the space you’re in at any time. Dementia signage represents an additional set of challenges and must adhere to strict guidelines. This includes using both text and representative images, appropriate colour contrast (text/background, sign/ background) and position.


Trips and falls are a big concern for older people as they struggle with their

vision and mobility. Design can play a great part in preventing falls and goes way beyond clearing walkways and removing trip hazards. Colour is a fantastic tool for this. One of the biggest issues many have, especially those with dementia whose visuoperceptual skills are compromised, is not being able to distinguish the edges of furniture, doors or steps. This happens when colour schemes are not varied enough. Chairs, sofas and tables should contrast with flooring. Door frames should contrast with walls and handrails, toilets and sinks with walls and floors.


As well as looking aſter their physical needs, care environments also have a responsibility to stimulate service users. Wall murals can be used to add colour and bring the outside in. A ‘homely’ environment can be created by making room doors look like front doors and signage like street signage in corridors. Nostalgia can be used to great effect for those with dementia with retro touches such as pictures, films and objects from eras gone by.


DISTRESS Just as an environment should stimulate service users in a positive way, so should it serve to minimise their distress, much of which arises from confusion. By being focused on the first three areas outlined here: an ability to orientate yourself; a safe environment; a sense of familiarity; and tools for reminiscence, combined with dementia friendly images and a solution to the issue of fear of reflection (which can be resolved by reversible mirrors), a significant reduction in distress should follow.

The rewards of good interior design are worth the effort. Care environments have a duty of care that extends beyond a person’s physical needs and creating a positive space helps complete the circle. - 18 -

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