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Current Trends in Design for Memory Care
October 25, 2019 at 4:00 AM
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Current Design Trends in Memory Care

10 top trends in design for dementia

Barbara J. Huelat, FASID, AAHID, EDA

20019 Integrated Care in the Older People with Dementia

Center for Healing Environment Administration and Research

Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan

October 25, 2019

An elderly person at home is like a living golden treasure

Chinese proverb

Keeping a living golden treasure in one’s home is a time-honored wonderful philosophy however families are growing smaller and children move away causing a shortage of family caregivers necessary to keep our elderly in the home. However, honoring the elderly and wisdom they represent is not moving away. Today we are looking at trends which honor the elderly, provide dignity, safety, meaningful, engaging environment which keeps our golden treasure central to our communities.

Emerging design trends in memory care is expanding as the population gets older. One in 8 persons over 65 will have dementia. As the elderly population grows, the disease continues to grow, and it challenges facilities and their ability to provide quality of life care. Caring for those afflicted with memory and cognitive diseases requires specific interventions which improve behavior outcomes that challenge the caregivers and staff. These interventions have a specific correlation to the behavior management, environment and the design of the facility. We are currently engaged in a paradigm shift from traditional home care to a home-like environment. This requires that we not only provide comfortable safe housing but also be a person-centered home that provides engagement and quality of life enhancement. This is a shift in thinking from home to home-like facilities. Design can help in this transition and make a difference that the resident, family and staff will appreciate. These ten design trends in Memory Care can enhance the quality of life for all.

As we move into this next generation of memory care housing, we must be mindful of keeping a “home like” setting. Design is a key ingredient. However, these trends address the architecture, design element, special programs, teams and operations to make them successful.

Trend One - Decline in the Nursing Home Model: Long Term Care is changing to diverse models serving specific populations of memory care nursing care and independent living. Housing for Memory Care looks different from the old nursing home model, hospitals and other LTC populations. The growing trend is away from sterile environments. Home Health will continue, and facility home care is smaller, more like home, multigenerational and offers programs specific to dementia care. Housing will look familiar to the resident be it high rise apartments or the cottage. Large and small building will be designed around the” small house model.”

Trend Two - Design Details Matter: Design details can offer multiple tools to mitigate disruptive behavior and provide an interesting, stimulating environment. Design can also reduce incontinent, support safety and reduce caregiver stress. Details can be interactive and engage the resident in meaningful activities.

Trend Three - Rise in Technology: Technology will continue to change how memory care is delivered. Smart technology will help monitoring without challenging the resident and help keep some degree of independence. Technology can also keep the resident safe, manage medication and provide meaningful entertainment.

Trend Four - Support for Caregivers: Focus will continue to expand and engage a larger caregiving team. Training, collaboration, coaching and sharing of care will continue to grow addressing staff retention and caregiver burnout. Programming and planning will include staffing workflow, traffic patterns and staff respite areas.

Trend Five - Access to Nature: New evidence is showing the access to nature is critical to maintain health, wellbeing, sleep patterns and behavior. Memory Care facilities are being designed to include gardens, solariums, windows with views of nature, circadian lighting, pets and planting beds.

Trend Six - Physical Activity is Critical: The important of exercise and movement is linked to better health and reduces stress. Wandering, walking loops, exercise classes, games, dance help mitigate disruptive behavior. Safe walking paths, multipurpose rooms and areas for physical activities are being designed into memory care facilities.

Trend Seven - Increase of Amenities: Amenities make an environment feel home-like. Familiar art, houseware, familiar furnishing and textiles all indicate “this is home.” In the past these amenities such were thought to be extras and nice to have but not essential. Today we are finding them essential to behavior management as well as improve quality of life for the residents. Music can aid in the motivation to dress, bathe and enjoy meals. Art can support wayfinding, identify destinations and personalize the individual space.

Trend Eight - Memory Care Engagement: An engaged resident is a happy and calm resident. Keeping the resident engaged is critical to resident and staff satisfaction. Special design such as “rummage alcoves” life style alcoves and Montessori carts can engage a memory care resident while also providing meaningful activity and purpose.

Trend Nine - Keep it Personal: Home is personal, it is our nest, it is a safe place for self and family. This is where we can celebrate our golden treasures. Memory boxes are a good start, they can even be electronic memory boxes that are easy to change and leave personal messages. Mailbox, favorite quilt, the favorite chair and pictures all help keep it like home.

Trend Ten - Special Places, Spaces and Destinations: There is an argument for designated spaces. The old model is one large activity room for eating, activities, crafts, TV viewing, napping. Often staff feel it is easier to watch the residents but this type of space leads to many behavioral issues that disruptive behavior is spread between residents often creating greater problems. This is not a normal, we have different rooms for different activities at home. Those with dementia need smaller spaces without distractions for the activity on hand. Design can create diverse destinations with alcoves, room dividers, furniture, artwork and other elements to break up the space for specific function and destinations.

When it comes to trends like these it is always a benefit to implement when the time is right. That not only means following the trend, but also communicating that you are a trendsetter. It should be advertised and celebrated that your facility provides all the different benefits offered to your residents, their families and the staff.