Too many signs and too much noise are common problems in nursing homes, leading to confusion and "absolute exhaustion" for residents with dementia, an Australian expert says.
"Simplifying the environment to stop over-stimulation would vastly improve the quality of life of people with dementia and the staff caring for them, said Professor Richard Fleming, from the University of Wollongong.
"A lot of facilities are very cluttered visually, they have far too many signs around the room that are simply not relevant. That adds to confusion and absolute exhaustion," said Prof Fleming, director of the NSW-ACT Dementia Training Study Centre.
"Visual clutter, matched by auditory noise clutter, raises anxiety levels throughout the day. If you are a confused person you don't stand a chance."
Prof Fleming said the past 30 years had been spent identifying characteristics of building layouts and interiors that are helpful to people with dementia.
But the application of the knowledge was "patchy" and needed more work.
Prof Fleming has helped develop an iPhone/iPad app to give advice to people building and redesigning aged care facilities across Australia.
"It is designed to be used in a way that we can guide them through the systematic evaluation of their building, looking at things like safety, size, visual access and stimulus reductions," he said.
"They can answer questions the app presents, take photos to illustrate their points and that information can be uploaded to my unit where we generate a report that is sent back to them."
He said the app "allows people to see the strengths and weaknesses and compare their centre to other centres".
Other initiatives of the centre's Dementia Enabling Environments Project (DEEP) include a virtual web-based centre for information, workshops for professionals and families and course materials for university architectural students.
With the number of people with dementia tipped to increase by almost 50 per cent to 385,00 in just 10 years, the DEEP is considered vital to shaping future dementia care.