Memory Care Facilities: Considerations

 

Post by Joe Sirkovich, AIA, LEED AP BD + C - Principal

In honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, SBA shares some insights into developing evidence-based designs for memory care facilities.

On one of our most recent projects, SBA assisted a new company, CareWell Adult Day, to design its first memory care facility. CareWell’s enthusiastic CEO Ron Morganelli came to SBA in 2011 seeking guidance and expertise to help him develop a 7,800-square-foot former warehouse facility that had already been leased from FoxRock properties.

From our extensive background in elder care and healthcare facilities, SBA knew that a well-designed environment could be just as important as medication and social interaction in improving the lives of those suffering from diseases, especially Alzheimer’s. A 2003 study published in The Gerontologist confirms that intelligent interior design greatly enhances people’s experiences and their lives (http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/43/5/697.short).

With this type of evidence-based research in mind, SBA established for CareWell several project goals that would focus on treatment via strategically designed environments. These goals included:

  1. To create a safe environment that makes patients feel respected and valued for who they are now.
  2. To organize floor plans that can stimulate active movement, exercise, and opportunities for continuous walking.
  3. To ensure maximum views to nature and maximum exposure to natural lighting, supplemented by dimmable artificial lighting fixtures where necessary.
  4. To create an interior environment reminiscent of “home.”
  5. To provide access to secure outdoor garden spaces.
  6. To incorporate bright color schemes that aid with active visual cognition.

To address these goals, SBA suggested that the CareWell Adult Day Wellness Center be built within a ground-floor corner location in the building, which would maximize exterior views, natural lighting, and outdoor access. New windows were cut into the exterior frame to increase visual access to the forest and garden outside. This location choice also allowed for an easy drop-off/pick-up entryway along with access to the protected garden terrace outside. Organized around a looping pattern, the floor plan gives patients clear walking paths in a safe environment that reduces the chance for patients to wander.

Through close collaboration with CareWell representatives and Mr. Morganelli, SBA was able to turn the former warehouse space into an active, safe, and supportive environment for Alzheimer’s patients.

As we ourselves age, we become more sensitive to the ways in which spaces and environments might affect us down the road—either as we ourselves or as a friend or loved one might suffer from cognitive deterioration and related diseases. It’s our intent to design facilities that can provide the kind of caring and nurturing environment that we would want for our own kin.

For more information about the new CareWell Adult Day Wellness Center, please visit http://www.carewelladultday.com/about-us/.

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