Dementia-friendly environments: Kitchens and dining areas
Making it clear where things are - whether in a kitchen or a dining room - always helps a person with dementia. A kitchen should be easily identifiable as a kitchen. This means having a cooker, perhaps with a traditional style. In modern fitted kitchens, fridges and other white goods are often hidden behind plain kitchen unit doors. If you have a memory problem, this can pose difficulties, forcing you to hunt for them. Either take off the doors or use labels or photographs to make it clear where the items are.
A person with dementia needs quality eating and drinking time to live a healthy lifestyle.
Cooking and baking smells are important also because they provide a unique identity for the kitchen and encourage a person with dementia to eat (see Why nutrition is important for people with dementia feature in the Eating well section).
A clear view
Glass jars for tea and coffee and clear-fronted cookers can help make these items easy to identify. Similarly, open or glass-fronted cupboards allow a person with dementia to see foodstuffs or utensils. If all units have solid fronts or fronts that people can't see through, labelling them can provide simple but effective clues to contents. Open shelving is an alternative used in many kitchens. These can be fitted with rails and blunt-ended hooks to hang utensils. A fridge with a glass door entices the person with dementia to eat what is in there. This open, visible approach also makes it easier for care staff to glance in the kitchen and get an idea about whether the person is eating well.
Labelling and plain surfaces
Label hot and cold water functions on taps clearly, whether the taps are a traditional style (separate hot and cold taps) or mixer variety (both through one tap). Ideally, floor coverings should be plain (without a pattern) and non-slip. Shiny surfaces on floors or table tops can cause confusion by producing glare and shadows. Mats and tablecloths may help overcome these difficulties.
Issues to consider
It is important to ensure that everything a person is likely to need is in reach and is easy to use. For example, the cooker: can the person still operate it? Could controls be labelled to allow the person to cook? Could assistive technology – such as a temperature extreme monitor that detects very hot or cold temperatures in a room – help? Should cooking only take place when someone else is in the kitchen? Simple reminder notes can help a person with dementia find their way around the kitchen.
A person with dementia needs quality eating and drinking time to live a healthy lifestyle. Creating an attractive eating environment can greatly improve their dining experience (see the The eating environment feature in the Eating well section).
Simply the way in which you set a table can improve the appetite of someone with dementia. Use contrasting colours for cutlery, crockery, tablecloths and plates. Heavier plates with a lip around the edge are less likely to slip or spill. Ceramic or porcelain mugs, preferably with large handles, make drinking more pleasurable. Plastic is best kept for picnics or cups of tea in the garden.
You can make a dining area easily recognisable by features such as a dining table, upright chairs, a dresser and visible sideboard storage for cutlery and crockery. Generally, furniture should be traditional and recognisable in style, rather than having more modern or unusual designs. There should be clear leg space under tables to make them easy to use. Place chairs well apart to enable people to eat freely and without obstacles. Tables with rounded edges and corners can help to reduce injury through accidental collisions.
In care homes, arrange the tables in such a way that you encourage interaction among residents and staff. Screens can be useful to allow discreet assisted feeding and to preserve residents' dignity with extra privacy. Having the dining room near the kitchen allows appetising smells to waft through to stimulate appetite.
All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following downloads you will need a free MySCIE account:
- Activity: Kitchen and dining areas
- What the research says: The environment
Further reading Open
Calkins, M.P. (1988) Design for dementia: Planning environments for the elderly and the confused. Baltimore, MD: National Health Publishing.
Dementia Services Development Centre (2008) Design for people with dementia: Audit tool, Stirling: Dementia Services Development Centre, Stirling University.
DSDC Virtual care home: The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre has produced this ‘Virtual care home’, which allows users to navigate around the various areas within a care home (such as bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms, kitchens, lounges and so on), and read advice about things to consider and ways to improve the care environment for people with dementia.
Pollock, R. (2003) Designing interiors for people with dementia, Stirling: Dementia Services Development Centre, Stirling University.
Watchman, K. (2007) Living with dementia: Adapting the home of a person who has Down’s syndrome and dementia. A guide for carers. Edinburgh: Down’s Syndrome Scotland.
Useful links Open
Dementia-friendly health and social care environments
This 2015 resource from the Department of Health presents design guidance in relation to new buildings as well as the adaption or extension of existing facilities, and includes case studies drawn from projects funded by the Dementia Capital Programme.
Design Resource Centre
The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has always been a leader in the area of dementia and design. The DSDC website includes the Design Resource Centre. This section includes links to a substantial range of publications and resources in the area of dementia-friendly design including information on the importance of lighting, colour and contrast, getting outside, and orientation and signage. The site also includes the DSDC Virtual Care Home and the DSDC Virtual Hospital. Both these resources allow users to navigate around the various areas within a care home or hospital (such as bedroom, ward, ensuite, kitchens, lounges and so on), and read advice about things to consider and ways to improve the care environment for people with dementia.
Developing supportive design for people with dementia
This is the final report of The King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment (EHE) Programme, which ran from 2009 until 2012. The well-illustrated report includes descriptions of the 26 EHE projects completed in NHS Trusts to improvement the environment of care for people with dementia, and also includes the EHE assessment tool and overarching design principles.
Home environment and dementia
This NHS Choices web page sets out good introductory information on how to improve the environment for a person living with dementia. It covers topics such as lighting, flooring, colours, noise and outside spaces.
Making your home dementia-friendly
This 2015 Alzheimer’s Society booklet is aimed at people living at home. It covers a wide range of topics such as lighting, flooring, furniture and furnishings, knowing where things are, and enjoying the outside.
Related pages from this section Open