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This issue is about designing for seniors with dementia and Alzheimers.  "Good" memory care design takes a "firm hand with a light touch" to design flexibly, with behavioral sensitivity in a homelike setting. If you want to learn more about designing for dementia, please contact us at JWB. It's what we do!
Memory Care Design -
What You Need to Remember

Designing for seniors with dementia is both challenging and rewarding. A successful memory care design is a balance between regulations which promote safety and security and the goal of creating a homelike environment which fosters independence and choice.
At JWB we have had the honor of designing for seniors with Alzheimer's for many years and the genuine satisfaction of playing a small part in helping these respected elders "Find Their Way" is a true joy.
The space available on these pages prevents me from delving too deeply into how to successfully "Do" Memory Care, but I can give you the broad strokes and some Dos and Dont's. Here is some of what we at JWB have learned over the past twenty years.
First, "You Need to Generally Understand Behaviors". I'm certainly not a clinician, but there are some basic behaviors common to dementia residents which dictate spatial flow and the functional hierarchy of spaces. In a memory care home you are you are designing for early stage Alzheimer's residents who are more physically active when compared to late stage dementia seniors who can be sedentary. Disorientation and confusion are common among Alzheimer's residents. This sometimes creates a tendency for residents to "wander". The challenge design-wise is to create a safe "circuit" for residents to wander without too much restriction. In order to help reduce disorientation and confusion we always try to incorporate way-finding elements into common areas. This can be done by varying the width, length and shape of corridors along a wandering circuit and by placing identifiable "destinations" to create spatial variety and "markers" along the way.
For example, a pocket lounge with an aquarium is created at one point in the circuit and an alcove with a tactile wall hanging featuring colorful flowers is situated at another juncture. The hope is that these spatial milestones help residents navigate and find their way.... "My room is near the fish tank" for example. Additional layers of way-finding can be added such as recessed memory boxes next to a resident's door with family photographs and momentos.
Do you have questions or feedback about the information provided or regarding your property or building that we can answer?  Contact us and we will be happy to provide you with any additional information you may need.  We want to continue to offer content that interests you, our readers. Please drop us a line and let us know what topics you might want to learn more about. As always, we love hearing from you.
John W. Baumgarten, RA, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
Principal & President
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