Dementia-approved bathroom design by AKW
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the number of people with dementia is steadily increasing and careful planning is required to manage their care and support. One in every 14 people aged over 65, and one in six aged over 80 struggles with the condition. Here, Stuart Reynolds, Head of Product and Marketing at AKW, a leading provider of accessible home solutions, discusses the launch of a new guide that will help housing associations create more dementia-friendly bathrooms.
AKW’s new guide to creating dementia-friendly bathrooms has been produced with advice and support from specialist dementia design advisers at the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC). The aim of the guide is to offer housing associations, installers and the general public it best practice guidance on designing this important space.
Why are bathrooms so challenging for those with dementia?
Dementia can cause someone’s perception of danger to steadily diminish, and the bathroom can become a dangerous and confusing place. People with dementia are twice as likely to fall and these falls result in significantly higher mortality rates than for others in the same age group. The bathroom might look straightforward to most, but for those with dementia it includes potential trip hazards, slippery floors, hot water, and confusing layouts.
What is a dementia-friendly bathroom?
Importantly, a dementia-friendly bathroom doesn’t need to cost more than a standard bathroom adaptation, but the products and guidelines regarding colour etc. need to be followed to ensure maximum safety and comfort. A dementia-friendly bathroom needs to protect the user from scalding, falls and visual confusion. To do this, a range of design techniques need to be employed:
Protection against scalding – opt for thermostatic taps and showers and use low surface temperature radiators and under-floor heating if possible.
Protection against falls – avoid sharp edges, install a level access shower instead of a bath, include a shower seat, PET shower screens instead of glass, and shower curtains made from a breathable fabric to prevent suffocation if a person falls. Also ensure that the floor is a single colour to avoid a colour change being mistaken for a step, steer clear of shiny flooring (as this can be perceived as wet), flecked flooring (it can be seen as dirty) and dark flooring (potentially mistaken for a big hole, making the person with dementia reluctant to step on it).
Protection against confusion – opt for a shower with an automatic switch off, flood-proof plugs (or no plugs at all) and choose retro-style taps and flush handles. Also ensure any mirrors have a roller blind or can be covered if needed. Finally, use contrasting colours to define the shower and toilet areas so the user can locate them easily (surfaces that have a light reflectance value of 30 points of difference achieve good contrast).
Choosing the right products can significantly help those living with dementia, that is why AKW has developed a range of products that are ideal for use in a dementia-friendly bathroom. From thermostatic care showers and contrasting toilet seats and grab rails, to non-slip flooring in a range of colours that will clearly contrast with the walls, AKW has it all.
For health and care professionals, specifiers, relatives, contractors and social landlords wanting to find out more, AKW’s Guide to Creating Dementia-Friendly Bathrooms is available to download from https://akw-ltd.co.uk/brochures-guides/akw-guide-to-creating-dementia-friendly-bathrooms/