23 June 2017

What Does Outstanding Dementia Care look like? The Stirling Approach

David Barenskie, Head of Dementia Care at Green Tree Court Nursing Home in Exeter, Devon, takes a look at the Stirling Approach.

What does outstanding dementia care look like? The Stirling Approach

Dementia is not just about memory loss: it can affect your ability to carry out day to day activities, make it difficult to concentrate or to get your thoughts across to others and it can affect your mood and emotions. All these factors can result in social exclusion and a loss of independence. But it doesn’t have to. You can still live well with dementia, even as the disease progresses. Experts at Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre have found that the way a room is designed can help support people with dementia to lead as independent and fulfilling a life as possible. Read on to find out how this considered approach helps people with dementia to maintain their dignity, independence and wellbeing and forms a crucial aspect of outstanding dementia care. 

What is the Stirling approach to dementia care?

The Stirling approach is all about creating a calming environment that is easy for people with dementia to move around within. It’s been put together by a multidisciplinary team of clinical specialists, architects, and designers, who have used research and practical evidence to create a blueprint for the best environment for people with dementia.

They’ve looked at the impairments experienced by people with dementia and carefully considered how to compensate for these impairments as effectively as possible. This could be compared to the way a designer might consider how a building or space can work more effectively for someone who uses a wheelchair by eliminating steps and having lower level light switches etc. The specialists at the Dementia Services Development Centre understand how everyone with dementia is different, so the guidelines are designed to ensure that no one with dementia would be unnecessarily disabled by anything in them.

How is a calming environment achieved?

The aim of the Stirling approach is to aid short-term memories to make it as easy as possible to get on with day-to-day activities. That means simple things like:

  • using colour and contrast to identify different rooms. This can include blending high-risk doors, like doors to stairs, into the wall to reduce the chances of an individual opening them, and giving each private bedroom its own individually coloured door to make it easier to identify
  • using a different colour for a toilet seat, compared to the toilet or surrounding furniture, to help to make the toilet more visible
  • putting pictures of on-duty care staff in the residents rooms, so they can more easily recognise them as a familiar face
  • using colours such as red and gold, which research suggests can be stimulating to people with dementia, in certain areas and relaxing pastel shades in others
  • having large clocks and clear signs that are easy to read
  • using memory boxes outside each room, containing personal items to help each individual to identify their room.

Key benefits of the Stirling approach:

 1) Reduced medication

By reducing the potential for confusion, the Stirling Approach helps to create a calmer environment where people with dementia are able to live more independently. One of the key benefits of this is that stress and anxiety can be substantially reduced. As a result, dependency on medication can often be decreased, or even cut out altogether in some cases. That means that the common side effects of these drugs, which may include drowsiness and unsteadiness, can be reduced or even eliminated.

 2) Improved independence and wellbeing

By increasing independence, you hand back control to the individual. This can promote feelings of self-worth, encourage activity and generally improve overall wellbeing.

If you would like to find out more information about the Stirling Approach you can here.