Department of Health and Human Services

Dementia-Friendly Environments

How to use this guide

Structure of the guide | Navigation through the guide

The guide is for practical use by architects, builders, care managers, facility owners, landscape designers, nurses, personal care assistants, students and others. Users can dip in and out to find the information they need, using different navigation methods.

Icons used on this website
Research icon Organisation icon Case studies icon Information icon
What research indicates
The guide is based on evidence from research and good practice. The book indicates information about research available at the time of developing the guide.
Case studies from residential aged care
The case studies provide examples of good practice that relate to information in the guide.
Experiences from people with dementia
The experiences from people with dementia relate to information in the guide and attempt to aid better understanding of how different life can be for older people, and staff, friends and family.

Other information
This provides links to other information that people can follow up as they wish.

Structure of the guide

The guide includes:

1. Life and design for people with dementia

Helps us see the world from the perspective of people with dementia. This section has the aims and principles of dementia-friendly social and physical design and is a must for understanding people who live with dementia. See Dementia guide home.

2. Changes you can make

Addresses key issues for people with dementia, their families and care providers, for example in:

  • eating, dining areas and kitchens
  • bedrooms
  • bathrooms and bathing
  • family and community, and
  • staff.

Each of these sections may illustrate:

  • ‘Common problems’
  • relevant research
  • reminders and handy hints
  • good practice examples of dementia-friendly care
  • stories from people with dementia, family members and staff.

Sections contain ‘Changes you can make now’ - things you can do to create dementia-friendly conditions at:

  • low,
  • moderate or
  • high cost.

3. Good practice for quality care. An A–Z of strategies, checklists and tools

Has practical ideas, checklists and educational tools for particular issues. With over 40 entries, A-Z lists everything from activities to promote living with meaning and purpose, to family involvement, gardens, lighting, pain relief, spirituality, staff development, wayfinding and windows.

4. Resources

Lists handy web resources for practical use, references and background reading.

Navigation through the guide

All sections in this guide are interlinked but can be read and used separately.

For particular issues:

  • see Changes you can make, or
  • A–Z of strategies for practical solutions.

Arrows point to related information in:

  • Changes you can make and
  • An A–Z of strategies, checklists and tools. Arrows to A–Z provide a quick route to practical planning and problem-solving. Arrows in A–Z point to other strategies, checklists and tools that may be useful to you, and changes you can make.

Example 1

Staff and management identify the dining room as a problem area, but are not sure why. Mealtimes are tense, staff feel rushed and the atmosphere is not home-like.

  1. Staff and management consult the guide and find Eating, dining areas and kitchens.
  2. There they find problems they are experiencing could relate to social or physical aspects of the dining experience.
    • Socially, questions are asked about what is cooked, how decisions are made about food, and whether people’s experiences and cultural preferences are taken into account.
    • Physical design questions raised are closeness of dining areas to kitchen, bedrooms and outdoor spaces, and how the kitchen functions in the facility.
  3. Arrows point to strategies in A–Z for problem-solving, including:
    • five entries about making eating a positive experience: Eating: checklist for positive experiences, Hydration, Eating: dos and don’ts for assisted eating, Finger food and Eating in late stage dementia
    • Dining room essentials on physical design like furniture choice and arrangement, use of colour, light, furnishings, surfaces and colour contrasting
    • identifying Life stories.

Example 2

An architect needs information about appropriate lighting to draw plans for an existing aged care facility.

  1. Under Changes you can make she sees:
    • Interior design, likely to contain information about lighting
    • the A–Z listing.
  2. In Interior design, she finds a section on lighting, with arrows to relevant entries in A–Z.
  3. Or if she goes to A–Z first, she finds:
    • Lighting exercise
    • Light levels: how to measure them
    • Windows.
  4. These have arrows to other related topics, including:
    • Colour action tool
    • Vitamin D and sun exposure
    • Environmentally sustainable design
    • Maintaining personal identity: respect and dignity and
    • Wayfinding.