Well thought-out interior design is the first thing that ‘sells’ a care home, and it’s crucial to create the right first impression.
After all, the success of a care home business rests on showing potential clients that your home is the place where they or their loved ones will be able to live a full and independent life.
As a care home owner or manager, it’s your goal to demonstrate that you take pride in providing a welcoming environment, where residents, their families and your staff are valued and respected.
How do you go about creating and maintaining a care home environment that can attract new residents and enhance existing residents’ wellbeing, whilst maximising your profitability for the benefit of your business?
Understand the needs of your audience
Before you can start devising a care home design plan and considering what your return on investment might look like, you need to identify who you’re trying to appeal to and attract.
You need to understand:
- The marketplace you operate in and your key competitors.
- The demographics of your current and future residents.
- The current and future developments within care to futureproof your investment.
When you’ve decided on your key competitors, conduct an audit of their care environment offering. Focus on the design features they use, what works well and what doesn’t and use this information to collate a list of positive and negatives. You’ll then be able to use this as a benchmark for your environment design.
For the demographics of your residents, consider what design aspects appeal to them and how you can use this to enhance their wellbeing. For example, if your residents are living with dementia, you’ll need to ensure you create an environment that prevents confusion, reduces tension and helps to improve their health.
To create a dementia-friendly environment, take the following into consideration:
- Ensure residents know what to expect from each room. From our experience, successful dementia settings are homely, appropriate for function and easy for residents to recognise.
- Create a focal point for each room, and use a bright colour scheme to create a feeling of warmth and happiness for residents.
- Windows should not be covered to allow the maximum amount of natural light to enter rooms.
- Use furniture to create a friendly environment. For example, ensure doors are made from solid dull materials, not reflective materials, as these can confuse and scare residents, as they may think someone else is behind the door.
- Include retro furniture which would be familiar to residents, such as old TV units and dining furniture.
- Take age-related impairments into account, such as sight, hearing and memory loss.
- Use accessories to trigger memories, such as photographs and classic art. These accessories can also be used to create talking points for residents and their visitors.
Care home interior design in practice
A great example of a residential care centre that put its residents at the heart of its design is Cedar View, run by St Cloud Care. Based on the outskirts of Croydon, South London, the home cares for up to 65 older people living with a range of conditions from chronic illnesses and advanced dementia to those requiring palliative care.
What makes the environment different to many care homes is its use of memory-triggering design. The Centre includes a fully-functional ‘curiosity-themed’ sweet shop that has nostalgic interchangeable shop fronts, creating a ‘memory lane’ street scene.
The memory lane includes cobble-effect carpeted edging. Features such as this, which relate to residents’ memories, are a proven way to help them feel more at ease and can help residents familiarise themselves with their environment. It also has a library, bar, bistro and hair and beauty salon.
Cedar View was designed in line with the University of Stirling’s principles on designing for dementia. The principles use science, not just style, to create the right environment, by balancing aesthetics with ease of use and accessibility. For example, it includes flexible room dividers in between dining and living spaces to help residents get away from noise and stress if they want to, and consistent colour, seating and signage to help residents navigate their way around the home with ease.
The use of signage is especially important, as it was designed and positioned to help residents identify each room’s purpose.
Put safety and hygiene first
In addition to considered aesthetics, you have to prioritise your residents’ safety. To do this, pay high levels of attention to your equipment, such as your hoists, baths and beds. Are they regularly maintained and up-to-date or do they need replacing with more modern models?
Good quality equipment can help you to fully meet residents’ needs. Committing to, and demonstrating that commitment to, residents’ safety can provide the final link in the chain and show that that your home is the best place for people to be. Added to this, cleaning and hygiene and infection control are essential.
When it comes to infection control, every aspect of a care environment can help prevent the development and spread of germs – and the interior design is no exception.
While furnishings and fittings may be perceived as being somewhat secondary to items such as healthcare equipment, they play a pivotal role in combating infections.
Plus, it’s possible for your interiors to look appealing and provide effective infection control.
Five ways to look appealing and control infection
Here are five ways you can go about striking the right balance between design and infection control:
- Always choose vinyl or duo split fabrics on contact areas on chairs. Not only will your chairs have a longer lifespan, they’ll be much easier to keep clean and less likely to retain fluid and stains.
- Make sure that your freestanding bedroom furniture is fitted with castors; that way, they’ll be really easy to move around so that you can clean right underneath them, rather than around them.
- When selecting any item of furniture, make sure that it has a smooth finish. This will make it much easier and quicker to keep clean, and less likely for any bacteria to gather in nooks or crannies.
- Always remember to opt for a cap and coved floor vinyl for wet areas, where possible, and a good quality wood plank vinyl or impervious carpet. Both options provide more of a seamless finish and form an effective barrier against any leaks or spillages.
- Once you’ve chosen your vinyl floor or impervious carpet, make sure that it’s fitted with as few seams as possible. The fewer seams there are, the fewer places there are for germs to congregate.
While it might initially seem difficult to create a care environment that ticks both the design and infection control boxes, it is possible with the right outlook and insight.
Whilst furniture can play a huge part in infection control, cleaning regimes play an even bigger part. There’s no doubt you’ll be an expert at keeping your care environment immaculately clean, but it’s important to ensure the rest of your team are clued up on hygiene hotspots and how to minimise the spread of bacteria and germs.
Top care home cleaning tips
Here are a few of our top cleaning tips:
- Door handles, light switches and places that people frequently touch are bacteria breeding grounds, so give them special attention.
- Care home equipment, such as hoists and wheelchairs are often neglected and not given the love and attention they deserve. You can tackle equipment effectively and quickly with a disinfectant cleaning multi-surface wipe.
- Remember to descale your appliances, taps and showerheads on a regular basis, as poor maintenance can lead to costly replacements.
- Mattresses are another perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so make a point to check them every month. Examine the cover for staining and wear, and clean and disinfect every mattress with a multi-surface wipe suitable for use on textiles.
- Don’t forget places that aren’t directly seen, like tops of wardrobes, high ledges, chair arms and over-bed tables.
- Give your floors attention too. Not only do dirty floors look unattractive, they can cause accidents for residents and staff if they’re slippery.
- And last, but not least, ensure your care environment is well-ventilated and smells good.
Attention to detail
Investing in good interior design whilst giving attention to the smaller details, and having the right products, can make a real difference. The appearance of your home sells and people want to live in a pleasant environment that not only looks good, but is safe and clean too. When all these come together, it should help you to maximise profits for your care business.