Memorable Care – Healthcare Design Techniques That Cater to the Growing Population with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Memorable Care – Healthcare Design Techniques That Cater to the Growing Population with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are a growing part of the patient population. There are a number of concepts and recommendations to help healthcare designers make them feel at ease. These measures can also help improve designs of more general healthcare facilities.

A Look at Today’s Population

To understand how vast the need is, take a look at today’s population. The largest generation in America is aging. It is estimated that one in nine Americans 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease and that by 2050, there will be nearly 14 million Americans with Alzheimer’s. This number does not include those who suffer from other forms of dementia. Are facilities equipped to handle what is known as the “silver tsunami”?

Many Healthcare environments today are not prepared for the sheer number of baby boomers who will be showing up with traditional healthcare needs and various forms of dementia.

This article highlights four design concepts that can improve the healthcare setting, the patient experience and the overall outcome.

Design Guidelines and Concepts

The rapid aging of America creates a distinct need to explore the way spaces are designed and the manner in which care and services are delivered. Below are four research-driven concepts that will help.

Minimize Overstimulation

Persons with dementia function better in quiet, smaller spaces. Noise and visual stimulation should be controlled to minimize and reduce stress.

Create a Secure and Familiar Space

Unfriendly and harsh clinical environments can disorient those with dementia. To create more comfortable and relaxed settings, designers can create homey environments that are more reminiscent of home and/or hotels. For instance, abundant daylight and natural-looking materials commonly referred to as biophilic design is a good approach. Disguised or hidden medical equipment can help as can giving patients the opportunity to incorporate furnishings, artwork and family photos from home can help. Beyond that, safety is a must! Equip each room with handrails, slip-resistant flooring and low hospital beds. Help patients feel relaxed and secure by providing controls for lighting and thermal comfort.

Incorporate Wayfinding Techniques

The third concept is to provide wayfinding and orientation measures. This will mitigate unnecessary stress, minimize the need for additional staff and help create a positive experience.

Take Care of Patients’ Families and Staff

Lastly, patients’ families should feel supported. Patient rooms and waiting areas should be designed to alleviate stress and accommodate both patients and their families. Things like extra seating in a patient room, nearby places to get food and drink and even a place to take a walk or have a quiet moment to oneself is appreciated. Providing amenities and respite areas for caregivers is also important because their quality of work correlates to their work environment.

It Doesn’t Stop There

The best practices for designing for persons with dementia can be applied to any setting that delivers care and programs for seniors.

Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped modernize healthcare organizations locally, regionally, and internationally, improving patient experience and outcomes. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff


Chmielewski, Emily. “Designs to Remember: Facility Plans Focus on Facilitating High-Quality, Person-Centered Care for a Growing Population with Dementia.” Questia,

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