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Care homes urged to use colour and lighting to improve dementia residents independence

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Care homes urged to use colour and lighting to improve dementia residents independence

The guidelines â

Archive Item

Wednesday 25th June 2014

The guidelines ‘Best Practice in the Design of Homes and Living Spaces for People Living with Dementia and Sight Loss’ have been published by the sight loss charity, Thomas Pocklington Trust and the University of Stirling.

Dr Lynn Watson, head of housing research at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “The combination of these two conditions is increasingly common yet guidelines for designing homes – both individual homes and care homes – have tended to focus on one or other of the conditions.

Older Persons Eye“We wanted to review existing research and add to it the real experiences of people living with both dementia and sight loss. The result is an important new set of guidelines that can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

The evidence-based guidelines were developed after researchers gathered the views and experiences of people living with dementia and sight loss, their families and carers and a wide range of professionals.

Simple key areas can be improved with better design

Simple measures such as the use of colour and contrast, clever lighting, the design of cupboard doors and audible and tactile control panels are among those suggested to help improve the lives and independence of people with both dementia and sight loss.

Other recommendations cover fixtures and fittings; layout and design of kitchens; good bathroom design; entrances and exits; gardens and outdoor areas.

Sight loss and dementia are both associated with ageing. One in five people in the UK over the age of 75 is living with sight loss; one in 14 people over the age of 65 is estimated to have a form of dementia. Different causes of visual impairment have differing effects on what people can see, from blurred or complete loss of areas of vision to loss of detail and colour.

Some conditions may also be linked to optical illusions, misperceptions or ‘visual mistakes’. The consequences of such visual mistakes can be serious for people with dementia who may not realise or remember that they have made a mistake or be able to rationalise or ‘reality check’ what they believe they are seeing.

Up till now there has been little research into design for concurrent dementia and sight loss.

Aim has always been to ‘control and contain’ dementia behaviours

Researchers found that where dementia is concerned, the aim has often also been to ‘control and contain’ dementia behaviours.

Professor Alison Bowes, who led the Stirling research, said: “Our research focuses on the person, their individual needs and rights, and the ways in which their independence and capacity can be improved.

“The new guidelines consider the individual first and show that simple measures can make their homes more accessible and supportive. We believe these are among the first such guidelines to begin to address this important issue of promoting independence and capacity for people with both dementia and sight loss.”

Dr Watson added: “These guidelines will help people with dementia and sight loss to live their daily lives with more independence. We also hope that they will trigger a greater awareness of the problems caused when these two conditions are combined and the importance of considering sight loss alongside issues of dementia.”

The research was commissioned by Thomas Pocklington Trust and carried out by Professor Alison Bowes, Dr Louise McCabe, Dr Alison Dawson and Dr Corinne Greasley-Adams of the University of Stirling.

The guidelines are summarised in an easy to read booklet and are available in audio and podcast formats. The summarised guidelines in booklet, audio and podcast format are obtainable from: or