Care home design influences resident's activity

Altering the layout of furniture in living areas in a care home can positively influence activity and social interactions in residents with dementia.

These are the findings of a study by Dr Louise Ritchie from the University of Edinburgh, Dr Duncan Sim and Dr Edward Edgerton at the University of the West of Scotland, presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Glasgow.

The study was carried out with 85 residents across six dementia care homes. The study design involved a simple cost-free intervention which focused on moving furniture away from classically laid out designs (with chairs around the outside facing the middle) in living areas to smaller sections which enabled the choice of different areas within the room for activities and privacy. This redesign of the furniture enabled the residents to engage in different activities e.g. watch television, look out of the window, sit alone or in small groups.

The researchers used a measure called behavioural mapping which involved making timed, systematic observations of the behaviours that occurred in the space according to pre-defined behaviour categories. These measures were taken four times a week for two hours for three weeks before and after the design intervention.

The findings of the study showed a range of positive changes in behaviour in the care homes following the intervention. These positive changes included an increase in social interactions between residents, a decrease in agitation and an increase in activities.

Dr Ritchie said: "Residents also appeared to be engaging more with the environment and less likely to appear psychologically withdrawn and apathetic. The positive changes in behaviour were observed across all six care homes involved in the study."

"These findings highlight the importance of the design of living areas in dementia care homes. They provide empirical evidence to inform the future design of these areas."