£50m to transform dementia care environments

Hospitals and care homes targeted by DH moneypot

The fund will encourage health trusts and care home operators to enhance the physical environment for people suffering from dementia. Through the Enhancing the Healing Environment project,a balcony garden and social space has been created on Cherry Ward at Bowmere Hospital in Chester. It is hoped similar improvements will now be seen around the country

A moneypot of £50m has been unveiled to improve and enhance environments for people with dementia in hospitals and care homes across England.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the cash would be made available to NHS trusts and local authorities working in partnership with social care providers to help tailor hospitals and care homes to the very specific needs of those with dementia.

Responding with dignity and compassion to dementia is the only sensible reaction to the urgent challenges we face as our population ages

Improvements to the design of buildings has been shown to help dementia patients manage their condition better by helping to reduce agitation and confusion.

It is expected the funding will be used to create specially-designed rooms and spaces that may include:

  • Hi-tech sensory rooms using lighting, smells and sound to stimulate those with dementia
  • Large print photos of local scenes from years gone by to help people with dementia feel connected to their past
  • Specially-adapted outside spaces to prevent patients from wandering by helping them keep busy and active with activities such as gardening
  • Technology such as day/night clocks and controllable mood lighting to emulate day and night, which helps people with dementia to stay independent and well cared for
  • Simple changes such as the use of calming colours, non-reflective surfaces, large-print signs and the creation of zones to help residents know where they are and find their way back to their room

The creation of a local area map helps dementia patients to know where they are and avoids confusion, which can lead to anxiety and aggression. This map is helping patients on Belvedere Ward at Franklyn Hospital in Exeter

Every project will involve dementia patients, their families and carers in the design process to ensure they fully meet the needs of those with the condition.

Hunt said: “Being one of the best for dementia is a priority for this Government and doing what we can to help people with the condition feel more safe and secure in their environment is an important part of this.

“Responding with dignity and compassion to dementia is the only sensible reaction to the urgent challenges we face as our population ages.”

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The money will be used to adapt care homes and hospitals using design principles proven by Kings Fund pilots to help people with dementia overcome common problems associated with the condition, such as wandering and anxiety, and enable people to move around safely without confusion.

Research by The King’s Fund revealed that cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes were the top reasons for causing confusion and distress in people with dementia.

And the researchers found that by taking steps such as using a particular colour scheme, creating a designated quiet space, or establishing a gardening patch significantly helped to reduce patient distress and assisted with the management of the condition.

Anna Dixon, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “Our work with teams in hospitals and care homes demonstrates that it is possible to transform care and improve health and wellbeing for people with dementia by creating better, more appropriate care environments.

Whether it’s a sunny day or calming decor, the environment around us has a real impact on our quality of life. This is especially true for people with dementia who may be experiencing sensory difficulties or may become confused in unfamiliar places

“By putting the specific needs of people with dementia first in the way we design wards and care homes it’s possible to make a very big difference to people living with dementia, their families and the staff who support them.”

Funding will go to NHS trusts and local authorities working in partnership with social care providers. But the money will only be awarded if care providers sign up to the Dementia Care and Support Compact, which commits them to providing first-rate care and support for people with dementia and their families.

Successful bids will form part of a national pilot to showcase the best examples of ‘dementia-environments’ by building knowledge and evidence about what aspects of the physical environment can be used to improve the care of people with dementia.

Outcomes from the new projects will then be used to advise Local Health and Wellbeing Boards to help create the best environments for dementia care in the future.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Whether it’s a sunny day or calming decor, the environment around us has a real impact on our quality of life. This is especially true for people with dementia who may be experiencing sensory difficulties or may become confused in unfamiliar places.

“Designs that connect people with their past and promote a personalised care approach to help reduce anxiety and confusion can be particularly beneficial. Two thirds of people in care homes have some form of dementia and numbers of those with the condition are soaring so delivering quality care across the board is vital.”

By putting the specific needs of people with dementia first in the way we design wards and care homes it’s possible to make a very big difference to people living with dementia, their families and the staff who support them

Local areas can bid for funding over the next few months and the cash will be provided so that projects can commence by April 2013.

Speaking to BBH , Sarah Waller, programme manager of the Enhancing the Healing Environment initiative, which was developed by the King’s Fund to drive improvements to the patient environment in health and social care facilities, said: “Something as simple as changing the colour of the toilet seat or duvet so that it stands out from the rest of the toilet or then bed can make a massive difference to the experience of people with dementia.

“Through the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme, we are already showing that it is possible to improve the quality and outcomes of care for people with dementia as well as improving staff morale and reducing overall costs by making inexpensive changes to the environment of care.”

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