Department of Health

The strategies and principles below provide useful information for developing dementia-friendly environments from scratch. Planners, designers and builders should consult the A to Z listing for more information and advice.

Design issues for building a new facility are listed below in line with the social and physical factors in the guide.

Design for maintaining self-identity

  • Design user-friendly private bathrooms with toilet, basin and shower.
  • Design bedrooms so people can see the toilet from their beds.
  • Use rounded corners and gently curving walls.
  • Use technology to maximise independence and safety, like movement activated lights for night cueing in private ensuites.
  • Have significant colour contrasting of floors, walls, counters and bathroom fixtures.
  • Design bathroom mirrors to extend to counter splashback, providing visibility for people standing or sitting.
  • Locate a wall cupboard beside the mirror where personal belongings can be stored.
  • A residential style bathroom door can serve as a shower door with special rubber seals on all sides.
  • Use long-lasting finishes like sheet vinyl for bathroom walls.
  • Site public toilets appropriately.

Design for personal enjoyment

  • Create a foyer at the facility entrance with a place for coats and hats, providing a transitional entry space for people with dementia and visitors.
  • Create entrances off enclosed garden areas for people to safely wander inside and out.
  • Use clustering to reduce building scale and avoid institutional style buildings.
  • Cluster bedrooms around central living areas to minimise long hallways.
  • Have activity-specific rooms or areas and all purpose rooms.
  • Provide a purpose built relaxation room with coloured lights, soft music and attractive textures as a quiet comfortable space.
  • Include landmarks to help wayfinding and improve independence.
  • Design gardens for everyday life and leisure activities: include a barbeque and outdoor eating areas, raised garden beds, vegetable plots, walking routes with different sensory experiences, a fish pond, a shed.
  • Provide quiet outdoor areas and activity areas for different needs.

Design for healthy and enjoyable eating

  • Include decentralised small-scale working kitchens next to dining areas.
  • Design eating areas with views to gardens or other outside spaces.
  • Plan for flexibility in dining so friends or family members can cook and eat a meal with others or eat in privacy.
  • Install safeguards to allow people with dementia unsupervised access in working activity kitchens.
  • Plan for high quality domestic fittings or commercial fittings with a home-like appearance in working kitchens.
  • Select and locate fixtures and fittings to minimise reaching and bending.
  • Plan work areas at different heights for people standing or sitting.
  • Provide acoustic treatment in dining areas to minimise noise.
  • Install non-slip flooring in food preparation and cooking areas.
  • Install carpet or non-glare long-lasting low sheen floor coverings in dining areas.
  • Have raised-bed vegetable and herb gardens with close access to an activity kitchen or dining area.
  • Design a garden storage area for easy access to garden tools and secure areas for items that might need supervised use.
  • Include walking paths and seating around vegetable and herb gardens.

Design for personal space

  • Design for possible changing needs, like space for wheelchair access.
  • Design bedrooms as private rooms with personal ensuites.
  • Have room for people’s furniture and personal possessions.
  • Cluster bedrooms around a central living space.
  • Make ceiling heights about 3 m to make the scale of individual rooms appear more manageable.
  • Use carpet as the preferred floor covering.
  • Plan each bedroom with a view to outside.
  • Design low windows to increase visual access to outside and natural light.
  • Include adequate storage in each bedroom.
  • Think about window seats that provide both seating and extra storage.
  • Design wardrobes to promote ongoing independence.
  • Think about the height of shelves, hanging rods and lighting.
  • Install indirect lighting and touch responsive bedside and table lamps.
  • Locate outdoor access near people’s rooms.
  • Install heating and cooling controllable for individual preferences.

Design for end of life

  • Have a spiritual space adaptable to the needs of different religions and cultures.
  • Include space for family counselling, sitting, resting or time out, and tables and chairs for meals and tea/coffee facilities.
  • Design for easy use of mobility, pain relief and respiratory support equipment.
  • Design so family members have easy contact with staff.
  • Ensure staff can unobtrusively observe the person.
  • Design so a dying person does not have to be moved as their condition worsens.
  • Design access to a sheltered garden so a dying person can be taken outside in their bed if desired.

Design for family and community

  • Involve local business, community organisations, schools and community members during the planning stage for future community involvement in the facility.
  • Provide recreational and practical experiences to involve families and create community connections.
  • Along with gardens and useable outside spaces, think about an adjacent bowling green, activity kitchen, on-site café serving residents, staff and community and on-site child care facility for staff and visitors.
  • Design people’s rooms to have family visits.
  • Design a home-like environment in which family members can be involved in everyday activities: for example, activity kitchens, small dining rooms or small eating areas inside and outside, and recreation areas such as music, games and living rooms.
  • Include children’s indoor and outdoor play areas to encourage families with children to visit more often.
  • Create spaces inside and outside for family, friends and people with dementia for private time and for family–staff private time.
  • Design for access to technology such as video phones and video link so distant family and friends can stay in touch.

Design for staff needs

  • Design to reduce building scale and walking distances.
  • Design so staff can easily move about.
  • Provide space for easy storage and movement of equipment.
  • Provide secure areas for storage and dispensing medication.
  • Include easily reached storage for products and materials used in daily care routines and secure storage for cleaning materials.
  • Make ensuite bedrooms visible, accessible to staff and large enough to allow assistance.
  • Use new technology to improve safety and independence, supporting person-centred care by staff.Include a quiet, comfortable area for staff rest and relaxation with secure storage for personal belongings.
  • Include a work area with internet access and document storage suitable for case conferences.
  • Create flexible work spaces that can be altered ergonomically to suit different staff over different shifts.
  • Have features that connect the facility to the wider community such as a child care facility for staff, play areas for children or a small café open to the wider community.
  • Provide physical activity and relaxation areas staff can use such as a pool, gym, showers, a beauty salon and spiritual space.
  • Instead of traditional nurse stations, design areas where staff can see and communicate with people with dementia and their families while working.
  • Include an area for in-house training with space for interactive sessions, access to information technology and resources to support ongoing learning.
  • Plan and allow for future parking needs.

Reviewed 11 December 2022


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