At Group Homes Australia, we believe that the environment is a contributing therapeutic factor for someone living with dementia. If the environment is too big, it can be overstimulating and disabling, causing the person living with dementia to feel vulnerable. Whereas a small-scale environment has many benefits. Alzheimer’s Disease International delivered the World Alzheimer’s Report this year, called “Design, Dignity, Dementia”. In this report, it shares 10 best practice principles that help a person living with dementia to live well. Since 2012, GHA has been living and breathing these principles in our homes.
One of the principles highlighted in the 2020 World Alzheimer’s Report for design is ‘reduce unhelpful stimulation’. The report explains, “Because dementia reduces the ability to filter stimulation and attend to only those things that are important, a person living with dementia becomes stressed by prolonged exposure to large amounts of stimulation”(World Alzheimer Report 2020).
While living with dementia and experiencing brain changes, changing the stimulants that the person is exposed to is critical. Dementia reduces the ability to filter stimulation and can cause distress as well as unnecessary angst. Stimulation comes in many different forms, such as: sounds of music and tv, loud voices, environments that are too bright or too dark and rooms that have multiple things going on all at once. For example, a family gathering with the TV blaring, children running around, music playing and multiple conversations happening at the same time. For someone living with dementia, they may experience two things, either they will shut down and become very quiet and disengaged, or they will become anxious and distressed. Being overstimulated can disable the person living with dementia as they are not able to follow the thread of the conversations, enjoy the children running around, and tune out the music.
For a person living with dementia, it is very important to be stimulated, but to be stimulated correctly. Finding the right time of day, when the person is well rested and mindfully choosing something specific to be stimulated with can impact in a positive way. That can be music playing or a visit with the grandchildren, or a conversation with a small group of people, including them in the conversation. Reducing unhelpful stimuli is the key to help a person living with dementia to flourish in an environment and allows them to function at their best.
If we can assist with answering any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Resident Relations Manager for support on 1300 015 406 or email Group Homes Australia Home Support Office. The Group Homes Australia (GHA) care model is firmly built on the belief that people living with dementia thrive in a home environment. GHA homes are ordinary homes, on ordinary suburban streets, where 6 to 10 residents live together. Residents have 24-hour care, provided by a team of staff that we call ‘Homemakers’.