This article outlines an alternative approach to the support of individuals with dementia to live independently and safely in their own homes. The approach makes use of environmental design and non-drug-based interventions. This holistic approach is designed to improve the mood, socialisation, and short-term memory of people with dementia and reduce the need for residential care or hospital admission. The article takes, as a case study, the views of home improvement agency development teams (at Hyndburn Homewise Society and the Riverside Home Improvement Agency) complemented by observations from other stakeholders.
The policy context and the scale of the dementia challenge to be addressed are reviewed, with an examination of some psychological approaches which can alleviate dementia symptoms, including reminiscence work. The article outlines the potential in home improvement work for “dementia-proofing” and “retro-fitting”, in order to enhance reminiscence-based “life experience” work. An individual example is presented.
Dementia-friendly environmental design promises to complement psychological approaches. It is one component of holistic approaches to dementia care which respect the individual, instead of the more traditional “medical” approaches which have tended to depend on medication and / or institutional care. Results to date suggest that environmental design-based approaches may enhance the effectiveness of psychological management of dementia, for example using reminiscence work; thereby enabling a reduction in the use of “chemical cosh” antipsychotic medications. It is hoped that similar “alternative” dementia care models can be applied more widely across home improvement agencies and social care settings.
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Chaplin, A. (2011). Holistic care and environmental design: the future for dementia care. Housing Care and Support, Vol.14(3), pp.91-97.
Home improvement agencies are local, not-for-profit organisations which assist vulnerable homeowners and private sector tenants who are old, disabled or on low incomes to repair, improve, maintain or adapt their homes. There are approximately 210 home improvement agencies in England; 85 per cent of UK residents have access to a home improvement agency. Home improvement agencies are sometimes known as “care and repair” or “staying put” schemes. Discover more at: www.foundations.uk.com.