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Hospital care costs can be reduced through dementia-friendly design says Stirling Professor

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The cost of caring for people with dementia in acute hospitals and emergency departments can be reduced if new evidence-based guidance on their design is followed, says Professor June Andrews, Director of the University of Stirling Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC).

The number of people with dementia will double in the next twenty years. At present it is estimated that about 30 per cent of all patients in general medical wards have dementia, and 20 per cent experience some degree of delirium, which presents similar practical problems for patients and staff.

The DSDC has published a design guide to assist patients with dementia in general hospitals and emergency departments. The guide, which is the latest in the DSDC’s Dementia Design Series, gives research-based essential information which will be relevant to architects and health professionals who are involved in the building of new hospitals, or refurbishing existing hospital buildings. 

Professor Andrews said: “Many people with dementia who become physically ill are suffering needlessly because general hospitals and emergency departments are designed in a way that makes people with dementia even more confused and vulnerable.   Avoidable adverse incidents in hospital increase their length of stay in these environments, and even make their symptoms of dementia worse, even after their medical problems have been addressed.”

Design features in the guide include managing lighting levels, flooring being a consistent colour and non-shiny, having brightly coloured toilet doors and large easy-to-read clocks.

June added: “It does not cost a fortune and it can save money very quickly after the design changes have been made.  People with dementia are more relaxed and comfortable, but the design changes help every patient.  It makes life easier for staff as well.  If you get this right everybody wins.”

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