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Designing space for dementia care

Introduction

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In this study unit you explore how the environment impacts on the experience of health and social care, and in particular how the built environment affects the sense of orientation for people with dementia. You begin by considering how easy it is for most people to feel lost in a strange environment and the techniques that are used in public spaces to help people to find their way. You use a series of activities to engage with some of these techniques and learn about those that might be particularly helpful to people with dementia. The study unit includes examples of care homes for people with dementia that demonstrate principles of good design, which can help people to maintain their independence for as long as possible and improve their quality of life.

While most people with dementia live in domestic households (79 per cent), this reduces to 36 per cent for people over the age of 85 years (Fleming and Purandare, 2010). Much of the focus in designing spaces for health and social care is on larger settings such as hospitals and care homes, but the principles apply equally to domestic settings.

This focus on space provides an example of one non-medical element of care that impacts on the experience of living with dementia. Arguably, medical approaches to dementia dominate how it is framed and responses to it. But there are many other aspects of care that can improve quality of life for people with dementia and their carers that receive less attention and less funding. We have chosen design as one example that locates the solution outside the individual level. Taking a broader perspective is also useful because the principles associated with the way that society is organised can limit the quality of life for people with disabilities.

This study unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course K235 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] Dementia care, and is relevant to the following non-accredited course KG002 Improving dementia care.

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