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Dementia Friendly Design at Hillingdon Hospital

Redesigning the built environment and improving quality of care



In the summer of 2013, NHS trusts were invited to bid for Capital Funding from the Department of Health, and as a result, Hilllingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust secured £845,000 to create a dementia friendly environment on Beaconsfield East, an in-patient rehabilitation ward for older people. The funding was part of wider £50 million initiative to create pioneering care environments for people with dementia across England. The project is subject to ongoing research commissioned by the Department of Health to inform future dementia friendly design principles.

The hospital has since enhanced the experience of patients and their carers by:

  • providing stimulating inside and outdoor areas, including redesigning and planting an under used garden adjacent to the ward.
  • improving the ward’s décor including new lighting, flooring and signage and specially commissioned artwork
  • creating a new and welcoming reception area at the front of the ward, with the ward clerk’s desk and Ward Manager’s office relocated there so that patients and visitors can speak to someone as soon as they arrive.

The Discharge lounge which was based on the ward, has been replaced by a light and airy day room with a dining section and kitchen area which can be closed off from the main room with a sliding partition wall. As well as providing a social space for patients and carers, it provides a base for rehabilitation activities.

Within this area, a new multi-sensory activity room has been created with a specialist company. This has led to a redesigning a therapy assistant post to focus more on group work skills, and developing specialist clinical knowledge and skills within the team.

Artwork has been specially commissioned for the ward by a team with experience of creating environments that are supportive for dementia patients. The art is therapeutic and creates a calming ambience.

Toilet doors have been colour coded to aid recognition and the signage includes pictures as well as words. And a new shower room has been created to aid bathing for patients.

Updated lighting ensures the ward is always bright, which is known to be important when designing for dementia, and can be dimmed to provide less sensory stimulation if necessary.

A garden designer, again with experience in dementia settings, has created a safe enclosed garden with an upper terrace section and a lower area with paths and seating. Plants have been chosen to stimulate the senses. The garden provides a relaxing outdoor area for patients and their families.

The ward has been transformed and the teams based there can meet the increasing complexities of supporting older people to maintain their functional independence in a custom designed space. It also gives new opportunities for the multidisciplinary team to work in partnership to improve the quality and standards of care they provide.

For the therapy team, this has involved:

  • new learning on the principles of sensory stimulation
  • assessment and intervention techniques including the use of standardised tools
  • developing therapy assistants skills and knowledge

Close working relationships between the occupational and physiotherapists on the ward are longstanding, and the project has benefited from this as the therapists have worked together to research and select the kit and equipment for the room, and continue to work together as they develop treatment ideas and confidence with the new environments.



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