Designing for Dementia Care

Comfort and security, room to see family and friends, and technology – these are things we all want from our living spaces. Jen Bernard, founder and managing director of Bernard Interiors, talks about the practice’s approach to design for dementia care in luxury residential care homes.

Care provision is a growing market especially for dementia care, and here appropriate high quality design can help people to continue to enjoy their lives in a ‘homely’ and safe environment.

As part of the care operator’s development team for a new home, we look at the target market and current care provision in the area to position the development to maximise results from a business perspective. We look at local history and industries to see what potential residents would be familiar with and how this could be reflected in the design.

Together with the architect and contractor we tune in to the client’s vision from the start, and the whole team has an opportunity to build strong relationships. This enables better ongoing communication and ultimately achieves exceptional end results.

We talk to operational staff about their needs and what would make their jobs easier. Two aspects of the design process are key – effective space planning and consideration of natural light at the outset of the project, and investment in relevant, durable materials which will stand the test of time.

Dementia research is providing new insights into effective care and design which we include in all of our interiors. We are now revisiting projects completed several years ago to redesign for different needs and new approaches, for example a residents’ lounge may now become a hub area which allows for more varied activities. For care operators it is a process of continual investment and improvement.

Our motivation is that good interior design can enhance people’s lives, and we take into account how residents and staff will use the space.

For residents it is about the location and their life experiences, making the environment a happy, comfortable and fulfilling part of their life journey. We consider how residents experience eating, socialising, resting, activities, moving around and the effect that natural light has.

For staff it is about providing an environment in which they can provide great care safely, and which is designed to streamline routine tasks. It takes a high level of innovative thinking and insight to create and deliver design-led interiors which seamlessly incorporate the practical considerations.

In terms of aesthetics we consider high end residential and hotel design alongside healthcare specific regulations, requirements like creating visual contrast and research. We look at lighting, light reflecting values, finishes, texture, colour, familiarity and scale.

Depending on the requirements of the residents we incorporate several differently themed areas in the design to stimulate memories, conversations and activities. These might be a nursery; a village square with different shops such as a florist, grocery store, toy shop, music store; a garden or potting shed area where appropriate with access to outside space too, to encourage interactive hobbies born from everyday life activities.

Coordinating external landscaping with the internal space planning is important to create points of interest outside, with views into the garden where you might see vegetable patches, a garden shed or greenhouse, as well as more formal planting on a domestic scale to be reminiscent of home.

Technology includes developments like the Tovertafel projector, originally designed to engage people living with dementia, which is delightful for all ages to use and play with providing fun and encouraging movement.

Through interior design for care homes across the UK, including Castlemeadow Care’s St John’s House in Norwich and The Manor House Harrogate, the latest addition to Hadrian Healthcare Group’s luxury portfolio, we aim to facilitate first class dementia care in beautiful surroundings.

When someone makes their first visit to look round a care home they, and their family, should feel totally at ease, warm and relaxed, confident that their expectations will be met and that this is a place they can truly call home.

More images are in our portfolio Designing for Dementia Care

Our style is born from our clients vision and our skills realise our clients’ business aspirations or dream lifestyle.


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Photography © Neale Smith / Kristen McCluskie