Our lives these days fly by at such a fast pace that we take the simple everyday parts of life for granted. Our jobs, our family and our health are the backbone of our everyday life but yet we only stand back and truly appreciate what have when something grave occurs.
Be honest, we’re all guilty of it. It’s hard to reflect on the important things in life on a daily basis when we have deadlines at work, shopping to do and the family to look after. At the time these responsibilities are our primary focus, but the reality is without our job, family and most importantly our health the mundane everyday duties of our routine wouldn’t be possible.
Life can change in an instant and more dramatically than you may think, especially when you or someone you love is diagnosed with dementia.
Living with any illness changes our lifestyle and our needs within our living environment. The homes that have provided many years of family enjoyment can suddenly be transformed into a frightening space that in now filled fear and obstacles.
To support residents in their own home or within a specific care environment it’s essential that the design of the living environment should respond to the needs of not only the residents, but also the carers and supporting families.
Design matters to everyone concerned from the health, safety and enjoyment patients’ lives, to the carers who need an environment that allows them to successfully deliver care, the patient’s relatives that require easy access to their loved ones in a caring environment, and also the care provider who ultimately needs to consider the whole environment as provider for business purposes.
Considering the bigger picture of everyone involved with just one patient is quite astonishing!
Getting the design right can make a significant difference to improving the quality of someone’s life and even increase their life expectancy. This can only be achieved if the environment is fit for purpose and meets everyone’s needs.
Understanding the illness and life for all associated in the caring environment is key to getting the design right.
What is dementia?
Myth: Dementia is simply as natural part of growing older.
Truth: Do not assume that dementia is simply a natural part of aging. Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a broad category of brain diseases that can develop at any age but they are more likely to arise over the age of 65.
The term dementia is simply a word to describe the variety of symptoms that someone can suffer. As with many illnesses there are varying degrees of symptoms depending on the form of illness and its stage in its progression.
The symptoms of dementia can be grouped into different illnesses;
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
- Corticobasal degeneration
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Dementia is an illness where you lose control of being “you”. No matter which group of symptoms you are diagnosed with, as a patient eventually the disease will cause the long term loss of your ability to think and reason clearly. At present there is no cure for any form of dementia and inevitably it will affect the ability to function independently on a daily basis.
Alzheimer’s is the most common but symptoms will vary between patients as each person is unique. The illness affects different parts of the brain that control certain functions. The impact of the disease depends upon where the brain cells are damaged and deteriorating.
Symptoms can include:
- Memory loss and difficulties with thinking – commonly patients have difficulty recalling recent events whilst their long term memory remains,
- Concentrating, planning, organising and problem-solving – for example cooking a meal.
- Language – remembering the right words to use in conversation and difficulties in following a conversation.
- Visuospatial skills are problems with judging distances or seeing objects differently, for example a change in floor colour may be seen as a step or a hole in the floor.
- Changes in their mood or behaviour. The illness can cause frustration or irritability, it can make people become withdrawn, anxious, easily upset or unusually sad.
- Orientation – patients may lose track of the day or date, or becoming confused about where they are.
- Hallucinations can occur where a patient interprets everyday objects as something else. A lamp post can easily become a person.
The Alzheimer’s Society have commissioned research through King's College London and the London School of Economics and they have predicted that,
“There will be around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia in 2015. It mainly affects people over the age of 65 (one in 14 people in this age group have dementia), and the likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly with age.”
The number of people with dementia is growing annually and the Alzheimer’s Society expect that, “there will be over a million people with dementia by 2025.”
The statistics are staggering! With the growing number of people being diagnosed and no existing cure for the disease it is imperative that life for patients is made easier and as comfortable as possible, but how can a care facility be design to achieve this?
There is no one size fits all approach.
Understanding the scope and progression of the illness and how this can change as people age is essential when creating a design response. We must meet patient’s needs, but also create an environment that works for everyone that touches the lives of those living dementia.
To find out how simple design measures can enhance a person’s life living with dementia download the guide below.