Dementia Awareness Week

By Sally NSally Nicholson, Interim Head of Health and Care at Riverside Care & Supporticholson, Interim Head of Health and Care at Riverside Care & Support

With about 850,000 dementia sufferers in the UK, costing £26.3bn a year, and numbers set to grow to two million by 2051*, local authorities are increasingly looking for cost-effective ways of providing dementia care.

One of the ways they can do this is by working in partnership with housing associations, who are well-placed to provide care and support. Schemes like the three extra care facilities in Hull enable people with dementia to stay at home for longer, reducing pressure on an already over-stretched NHS.

One in 10 of the 316 apartments will be available to people who suffer from dementia so it’s really important we get it right. To make sure we do, we have enlisted the help of the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre and are aiming for Gold Standard.

We’ve also had specialist input on the interior designs from dementia experts working in partnership with Croft Goode architects, who designed the buildings, and Hull City Council’s Adult Social Care team.

Everything about the design and décor, from carpets and wall coverings to fabrics and patterns of furniture to colours and lighting, has been carefully considered to reduce anxiety and stimulate memories.

We know that the symptoms of dementia can worsen over time, to a point where people can become withdrawn and uncommunicative with loved ones. Unlike short-term memories, long-term memories are normally retained and can be stimulated.

Surrounding someone with furnishings that reminds them of their past can help them to remember their daily routine, it can also help with waya-finding through careful planning and signage throughout the building. Some of the apartments will also have features such as glass-fronted kitchen cabinets, which can make people feel less anxious and more able to do things for themselves because they know where things are.

Communal areas will be dressed with interesting way-finding cues at strategic spots, while our dementia-friendly gardens will have focal points to help direct people.

Art will also play a big part with reception desks, summer houses and vinyls designed to reflect the history of the area, creating a sense of place for the residents. The aim of the artwork is not only to stimulate memories and emotions but also create distinctive environments which will contribute to effective orientation.

We are also placing a big emphasis on community engagement as we know that participating in activities people have enjoyed in the past can help with dementia.

By providing interventions that allow people with dementia to live independent lives, we can reduce dependence on residential care. This is estimated to save £28,000 a year per person compared to the average cost of residential care – great news for the public purse.

But ultimately we are empowering people with dementia to take control of their own lives and play an active part in their community.

* Source: The Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia UK’ report, 2nd edition 2014