Research has outlined the important relationship between an environment and human health and behaviour. For someone with dementia, a new bathroom following an adaptation can be a confusing and stressful experience. A lot of dementia sufferers experience prospective memory loss, meaning their past memories are more resilient than newer ones. Therefore, elders with dementia find it harder to learn and adapt to a newer environment. For this reason, dementia suffers are safer and feel more at ease in a familiar environment. Designing a new but familiar bathroom for a dementia sufferer is therefore particularly important.
Neuro-cognitive research has found that elders with dementia or Alzheimer's disease have impaired explicit memory*, but a preserved implicit memory**. It is proposed that implicit memory can be transformed into a nursing tool for patients with dementia. Whilst designing a new bathroom for a dementia patient, an individual’s sense of familiarity, a recognised form of implicit memory, can be used to create a therapeutic and nursing bathroom. By creating a familiar environment, the user is more likely to retrieve memories of their past experience through environmental cues. This in turns maintains functional ability, meaning there is an improvement in confidence and independence.
Designing a bathroom that is dementia friendly just requires a little bit more thought and consideration than a general bathroom adaptation. Although declines in memory cannot be prevented, they can be slowed. A few steps can be taken during the design phase to create and install a safe and dementia friendly bathroom.
Keep the bathroom layout as similar to the existing layout as possible.
Avoid structural changes to the room.
Use existing taps and other fixtures where possible.
If new are required, traditional looking taps and fixtures are recommended.
White tiles and clinical interior should be avoided. As this give a none homely feel.
Avoid modern bathroom technology. Where possible stick to traditional flushers and not electronic or infra-red devices.
* Explicit Memory – Memory that requires conscious thought.
** Implicit Memory – Memory that doesn’t require conscious thought