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Improving the patient experience: Developing Supportive Design for People with Dementia

The King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment Programme 2009-2012

The environments in which we live and work have a profound influence on our physical and psychological wellbeing. Research has repeatedly confirmed that a supportive and welcoming environment can have positive effects both on those who visit hospitals – whether as patients or carers – and those who work in them (Ulrich 2001). But hospital environments are not always designed with these principles in mind.

In the case of dementia, there is increasing evidence that the environment of care in hospitals can have a significant and detrimental effect on patients with cognitive problems and dementia, leading to additional distress and confusion (Alzheimer’s Society 2009). An estimated 25 per cent of people who access acute hospital services have dementia, and the number of people living with dementia is expected to double over the next 30 years (Alzheimer’s Society 2009; National Audit Office 2010).

Dementia has a major, and growing, impact on health and social care today. The statistics are stark – 670,000 people in England are living with dementia with many remaining undiagnosed, while a further estimated 21 million people have a close friend or family member with dementia. One in three people over 65 years of age will have dementia by the time they die (Department of Health 2012a).

This publication describes the work of Developing Supportive Design for People with Dementia – the latest phase of The King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment (EHE) programme. The EHE initiative encourages and enables clinically led multidisciplinary teams to work in partnership with patients and carers to improve services through environmental change. Running since 2000, it has focused on improvements to a range of services, including acute, community and mental heath services, prison health care services, palliative care and bereavement services and, most recently, mental health and community units and general hospitals where people with dementia are cared for.