Paradise Room : how the sensory room can become a desirable destination for residents in care homes

Jakob, Anke (2022) Paradise Room : how the sensory room can become a desirable destination for residents in care homes. In: Rodgers, Paul A., (ed.) Design for people living with Dementia. London, U.K. : Routledge. ISBN 9780367554750


Design has an important place helping to optimise dementia care methods increasing the wellbeing of those living with dementia and their carers. This includes facilitating meaningful activities, fostering a sense of purpose, supporting social interaction, and providing an enabling, empowering environment. This chapter focuses on aspects of the physical environment of care-homes, particularly its sensory qualities, and how design can contribute to improving residents’ experiences, supporting their abilities and individual needs as well as assisting the daily work of care practitioners. The interdisciplinary design research discussed here explores the facilitation of multi-sensory stimulation, identified as one of the non-pharmacological care interventions improving dementia care, through sensory-enhanced spaces called Multi-Sensory Environments (MSE), Snoezelen or Sensory Rooms. Listening to care practitioners and observing existing facilities, the research uncovered that often rooms were not suitable for older people with dementia in respect to the aesthetics and functionality. Although aware of the need for sensory stimulation, care-home staff lacked skills, knowledge and guidance on how to utilise the Sensory Room to its full potential and to set up an environment suitable for their residents. In response, a list of design criteria was established and design recommendations developed for creating multi-sensory facilities tailored to personal needs and wants of people with dementia, disseminated via a guidebook freely accessible online. The chapter also reports on a case study demonstrating the implementation of research results in care practice and the impact achieved. On the basis of this example, the importance of applying an inclusive and compassionate approach involving as many stakeholders and beneficiaries as possible is highlighted. Active involvement and continued participation of users, carers and care practitioners as creators / co-creators in the design process is essential to ensure long-lasting and widespread impact of design interventions. It not only empowers the designer to develop user-centred solutions; the collaborative approach enables in particular the carer / caregiver to reflect on their important task and mobilise their creativity. An inclusive approach can prompt a change in views and attitudes fostering an appreciation of the potential impact of design on improved care methods.

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