DEEP Newsletter 7 - 2013 

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The Dementia Enabling Environments Project (DEEP) is about translating research on dementia design into practice. The DEEP is an Alzheimer's Australia WA initiative.

We have gathered together the best dementia design experts from across Australia, and every month this e-newsletter will provide you with evidence based advice on creating beautiful and enabling homes for people with dementia.

DEEP utilises a set of evidence based design principles which will provide architects, designers, landscapers, aged care providers and families with very practical information and advice on how to improve the environment.
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In this issue of the DEEP e-newsletter we address the 7th principle ‘Create a Familiar Space’.

Principle #7: ‘Create a Familiar Space’

The person with dementia is more able to use and enjoy spaces and objects that were familiar to them in their early life. The environment should afford them the opportunity to maintain their competence through the use of familiar building design (internal and external), furniture, fittings and colours. This will involve an understanding of the personal background of the people living with dementia.

The involvement of the person with dementia in personalising the environment with their familiar objects should be encouraged.

In this newsletter we will address the following:  

  • Personalisation and familiarity
  • Identifying spaces
  • Shared spaces

Personalisation and Familiarity:

Homely vs. home-like: When designing care facilities for people with dementia, it is important to create a homely environment. After all the care facility isn’t like a home, it is a home.

The word ‘home’ elicits an emotive response. Our home is our personal space where we are independent. We have control over the environment and tailor it to our tastes. This should be no different for a person with dementia, whether they are living in their home or in a residential care facility. Find out more

Personalisation is important in private spaces such as the bedroom. The person living with dementia will find their bedroom more familiar when it has objects or even colours that are familiar and  meaningful to them. 

Meaningful Engagement in the Home

Age and Culture: In shared spaces consider the average age of residents. What is familiar to those in their 70s or 80s? Do residents share a similar cultural or religious background? Find out what is meaningful to the people living with dementia.

Photographs and decorative elements can be used to create familiarity and interest in the space and they can be changed easily if the residents change. Find out more

In the Garden

Consider the individuals: Find out what era, music, fashion is familiar to the people living with dementia and tailor the space to suit them. Get people involved in personalising the environment. This is a great opportunity for engagement and retaining skills.

In the Garden

Does the space look like what it is? The dining room looks like the dining room because it has a dining table, dining chairs that look like chairs and crockery and serving dishes displayed in the cabinet. All these elements are cues to the use of the space, so that it can be identified easily.

Fixtures and fittings – does it look like what it is? Similar to the above, individual elements such as furniture, fittings, door handles and switches must be recognisable. For example, for an elderly person a cross head tap is probably more recognisable to them than a lever mixer tap.

It is also important to differentiation between spaces: For example, the dining room must look different to the living room, so that they will be understood as two distinct spaces for two different purposes. Find out more


'Adapting your Home' book: This book provides information and practical ideas for making your home more enabling for the person living with dementia.
Buy | Find out more

'Enabling the Home Environment and Using Assistive Technology' WorkshopAttend this workshop specially designed for family carers and learn how a carefully designed environment can support independence at home. This workshop incudes information on assistive technology and equipment which allows people with dementia to maximise their independence and minimise the care they require, promoting a greater sense of well-being.
Register | Find out more

'Design for Dementia' Workshop : This workshop catered to professionals will explore the application of 10 evidence based principles of enabling dementia design across a variety of environments including houses, care homes, and day centres. Topics covered include design, signage, colour and lighting. 
Register | Find out more

Dementia Garden Audit Tool: How enabling is your garden? Try our free Dementia Therapeutic Garden Audit Tool to find out. The easy to use audit tool helps you identify areas to be improved and also gives ideas on making positive changes.
Find out more

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Dementia Enabling Environments Project (DEEP)

Alzheimer's Australia WA, in partnership with the NSW Dementia Training Study Centre at the University of Wollongong, have been funded by the National Quality Dementia Care Initiative to develop a national project focussing on translating research into practice in the area of enabling environments for people with dementia. The National Quality Dementia Care Initiative funded by The Wicking Trust and BUPA is administered by Alzheimer's Australia.

DEEP                                Email :
Postal address        
PO Box 1509
Subiaco WA 6904              National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500

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