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Designing For Dementia: How To Work With Decorators To Create Supportive Spaces

Each year, the Alzheimer’s Society holds Dementia Action Week – an awareness campaign that aims to highlight the indicators of dementia and the support available to all impacted by it. This year, the campaign is running from 15th – 21st May, with a focus on raising awareness and encouraging people to get a diagnosis. Last year’s Dementia Action Week resulted in a 43% rise in calls to its dementia support line during the week[1]. Campaigns like this are therefore vital to raise awareness of the symptoms of dementia and support available to those living with the condition and their families.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for larger and better-equipped care homes has increased. According to studies by building and construction market researchers AMA, “the demand for additional capacity within the care home market is likely to start rising again within the next couple of years.” For this reason, care home managers need to consider how to accommodate more residents and ensure premises are effectively designed to meet their needs.

Perfecting the palette

 Correct colour choice and location can aid independence and wayfinding for those living with dementia. It is therefore crucial that care home managers work closely with decorators to ensure the right colours are chosen for the space.

Dulux Trade, alongside the British Research Establishment, created the Dementia Friendly Colour Palette. Following years of experience in design and medical research, it is recommended for use in spaces catering for those living with dementia. The palette recommends the following:

  • Soft, calm tones should be used on main walls, with only small hints of colour to help aid wayfinding.
  • Critical surfaces – including walls, floors and doors – should have contrast between them. To make doors obvious against neutral walls, bold hues such as navies, sage greens and burgundies should be used.
  • More saturated colours such as yellows, muted purples, oranges and teals may be used on feature walls to add interest, such as in a living room, or walls that need to be highlighted to support residents with wayfinding, such as the kitchen serving areas or end of corridors.
  • Staff areas and supply cupboards should be painted in the same colour as the walls so that they blend in, helping to avoid unauthorised access.
  • To highlight obstacles such as pillars, handrails and radiators, use brighter colours to make them stand out.
  • Outside of the realms of paint and colour, floors should avoid high sheens and patterns to prevent disorientating residents.

Product proficiency

As well as colour, the specific type of paint used should be a key consideration. Care home managers should speak to their decorator to identify the types of paint that will be needed in different areas as products are optimised for varying purposes.

For example, Dulux Trade Scuffshield is a tough, water-based matt emulsion containing ultimate scuff-resistant technology to protect walls against scuff marks made by shoes and bags. This makes it ideal for high traffic areas such as corridors, stairwells and hallways. It is also cleanable, with great stain resistance, keeping walls in top condition for longer.

In addition, Dulux Trade Diamond Matt includes stain-repellent technology that is ideal for settings like dining areas that often need cleaning. The Diamond Matt paint formula has been tested to ensure it can withstand up to 10,000 scrubs, meaning walls can withstand daily wear and tear and regular cleaning.

On the other hand, Dulux Trade Sterishield Diamond Matt and Dual Active Matt contain additives that reduce populations of harmful bacteria – key for environments occupied by vulnerable people. Dulux Trade Sterishield Diamond Matt is a quick drying, water-based coating with an in-film bactericide, which reduces populations of MRSA and E. coli. Additionally, Dulux Trade Sterishield Dual Active contains in-film antimicrobial additive, which inhibits bacteria and viruses within the paint film, and thus reduces populations of MRSA, E.coli, Coronaviruses and Human Herpesvirus. Using both paints alongside appropriate cleaning practices helps to promote more hygienic, safer environments.

On-site conduct and considerations

Care home managers should work closely with the decorating team to ensure works are completed in a timely manner – and cause minimal disruption to staff and residents. For example, the care home staff should be aware of what areas are out of bounds and ensure residents are relocated to other areas of the premises. It is also important to work with the decorating team to schedule deliveries and ensure staff and emergency services can access the site as needed.

For more information on best practice when it comes to decorating care homes, please visit

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