Two dementia facilities have been praised by the Ministry of Health for their exemplary approach to dementia-friendly design.

Millvale

Millvale Lodge on the Kapiti Coast and Westella Homestead in Feilding have been singled out by Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner for not only providing a quality environment for their patients but also showing other residential aged care providers what’s possible.

“The environment in which people with dementia live is incredibly important — it can be a positive therapeutic intervention on its own,” says Wagner.

Last year, the Ministry of Health released a dementia design resource to support the development or major reconfiguration of secure dementia care units.  The resource aims to enhance dementia patients’ quality of life through a number of design principles around lighting, colour and contrast, memory aids, gardens and the size and density of facilities.

Established in 2014, Millvale Lodge Lindale is a 47-bed dementia and specialist aged care facility owned and operated by aged care specialist Dementia Care NZ. It provides care in three separate small homes.

The three small homes each comprise private bedrooms, some with en-suites, together with a homely lounge, dining area and kitchenette. Each home is completely self-contained, so that the residents experience a small cosy home with a calm, supportive atmosphere.

“The concept of a small home is appealing to families,” says Millvale’s clinical manager Roxanne Rosquita. She says large spaces can be intimidating for residents.

Rosquita says the facility’s design allows its residents to feel more independent and gives them a sense of normality and freedom. The home has been designed to be simplistic, minimalistic with less clutter. While this is good from a safety perspective, it also means residents do not get as confused with the layout.

Millvale is in the process of reviewing its vision and philosophy. As part of this, Rosquita says residents are encouraged to take part in the running of their home if they wish, which assists people in remaining engaged in homely activities and maintaining a sense of purpose and value.

The facility design complements this philosophy. Kitchenettes are part of the open plan lounge-dining areas, as in a typical New Zealand family home. They include all the facilities one would enjoy at home, provided in a safe way: hot water to make a cup of tea, and a sink for the normal activities of washing up and drying the dishes. There is an oven, and plenty of bench space for cooking activities.

Residents are also encouraged to tend to the fruit trees and vege garden. The outdoor environment is an important aspect of Millvale’s design.

“I’ve seen other facilities located on the second or third floor of buildings,” says Rosquita.

By contrast, Millvale has great indoor-outdoor flow, taking advantage of the surrounding fields and big trees. There is even a playground for visiting children positioned in the centre of the gardens.

“The gardens and greenery give the residents a sense of peace and serenity,” says Rosquita.

She says that despite being a secure facility, the residents do not feel like they are “locked in” or the need to escape, as the facility’s design helps them to feel calm and at home in their surroundings.

The design examples are available at: http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/life-stages/health-older-people/exemplars-dementia-design. Providers are invited to submit examples of good design that support the principles included in the resource Secure Dementia Care Home Design. Examples can be sent to Certification@moh.govt.nz.

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