According to Steve Watts, regional director of building services at Patrick Parsons, care homes have been a hot topic recently, with the quality of care and patient safety taking centre stage.
Because of the UK’s ageing population, the sector has seen significant changes in how care home facilities are designed and built to ensure they can provide high quality residential care for the elderly and people with dementia for many years to come.
We have recently been heavily involved in a number of multi-million pound dementia care home developments across the country, and have seen firsthand how a variety of bespoke features are cleverly incorporated into these developments. Many are seeking expert advice from outside sources, bringing in top clinical advisors as well as interior designers to provide consulting services.
The inclusion of these unique features is intended to improve the memory and quality of life of those suffering from dementia. Spaces are now being designed as’memory lane communities’ for residents, with old photos of the Queen and Union Jack-themed furniture to evoke memories and encourage them to reminisce with others of a similar age, and this is just one of the major changes occurring in care home interior design.
Corridors, for example, which were previously painted in dull colours, have been transformed as a result of research demonstrating the benefits of brighter tones. Bedroom doors in new care home developments are painted the same colour as residents’ front doors at home, assisting them in settling in and making it more likely that they will recognise which room is theirs.
Other amenities that make residents feel at ease include en-suite bedrooms with views of the gardens and homely additions to the bathrooms such as pictures of boats and sponges hanging on the wall, Sky TV in rooms, computer access, and relaxing background music. There are also quiet lounges, hairdressers, and restaurants on-site, as well as sensory gardens and kitchens where residents can cook and pay for cooking classes. Family members are welcome to stay, as the goal is for residents to feel completely at ease and not as if they are in a hotel or a clinical setting.
A lot of new technology is also being implemented to ensure the safety of care home residents and to reassure families that their relative is being well cared for. These include pressure plates that activate when residents get out of bed, sensors that monitor movement around the room, door alarms that sound if someone leaves their bedroom during the night, and step-free access throughout.
Door codes are frequently disguised around the care home by incorporating them into pictures hung next to the doors, allowing staff in and out while preventing residents from accidentally or intentionally leaving the building.
Aside from the aforementioned developments, there is now a strong emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency in nursing homes. The use of environmentally friendly materials, as well as renewable and natural resources such as daylight, solar energy, and free cooling techniques, is critical.
The market is becoming increasingly ‘premium,’ with care homes significantly improved over the last few years and now far superior to the perception that many people still have of them. Families expect high-quality care home residency for the price they pay, and they want to know that their loved ones will be comfortable and well-cared for in their new surroundings.
With more studies being funded into dementia care services, I believe this trend will continue. The priority is to keep residents safe, happy, and encouraged to stay active, so I’m sure we’ll see even more innovative features incorporated into new developments in the coming years to achieve this.