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Designing dementia-friendly care environments

A well-designed care environment can enable people living with dementia to make the best of everyday life.

People living with dementia can experience their surroundings as confusing, disorienting, disabling and even dangerous.

A well designed care environment maintains people with dementia’s abilities, independence and meaningful engagement. Their surroundings should provide prompts for wayfinding, maximise accessibility and reduce risks.

Dementia enabling environment principles

  1. Unobtrusively reduce risks
  2. Provide a human scale
  3. Allow people to see and be seen
  4. Reduce unhelpful stimulation
  5. Optimise helpful stimulation
  6. Support movement and engagement
  7. Create a familiar space
  8. Provide opportunities to be alone or with others
  9. Provide links to the community
  10. Respond to a vision for way of life.

These principles expand on the definition of a dementia-friendly environment, which:

  • promotes independence and supports wellbeing
  • has familiar surroundings
  • allows easy access and wayfinding
  • supports meaningful tasks
  • supports participation in daily activities
  • promotes safety, security and comfort.

The principles expand on the evidence-based work of Prof Richard Fleming and Kirsty Bennett at the University of Wollongong. They are a way to review care environments, construction and refurbishment projects for care homes, hospitals and day centres.

For more on these principles, see the Enabling Environments website.

A real-life example: ensuite

Here's an example of designing an ensuite using five of the enabling environments principles.

Developing a dementia-friendly environment

Dementia-friendly environment tools are available to help you review your care environment or plan a new design. You may also choose to engage professional consultants to complete an environmental audit onsite.

Dementia Australia can help organisations create environments that help people with dementia feel supported, engaged, and independent as possible. After an audit, we will identify design features that are working and suggest improvements. We can also review plans for new builds and renovations.

Dementia Training Australia offers a range of online tools and resources which can provide a systemic way of identifying areas for improvement.

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Last updated
14 March 2024