Alzheimer’s and dementia

Creating a suitable environment for Alzheimer’s patients

Alzheimer's, the neurodegenerative disease that affects ageing populations, has become a public health policy priority for a large number of countries. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), more than 35.5 million people worldwide are affected, and the figure could nearly double to 65.7 million by 2030.

Numerous countries have responded to the growth in this disease by creating Alzheimer’s specialist units, reflecting the need to provide long-term care of people who can no longer live independently at home or in the care of relatives.

Alzheimer's is the cause of 60% to 70% dementia cases. As the disease advances, symptoms include problems with language, disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation, lack of self care, and behavioural issues.

Flooring plays a large role in creating a safe and comforting environment, key to improving patient well-being. Ageing patients are more likely to feel safe and continue routine activities in a reassuring and familiar environment, surrounded by soothing designs and sound-reducing materials. Colours, light and contrasts also contribute to the well-being and safety for Alzheimer’s patients.

Floor designs and patterns

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are characterised by memory loss but flooring may help stimulate memories by re-creating home-like spaces using design and patterns.

At Tarkett, we have conducted an extensive study among medical doctors and Alzheimer specialists to understand how flooring influences patient behavior and mood in medical facilities.

For example, designs such as wood, traditional hexagonal tiles or square tiles may have a familiar reference for the patient, reminding them of home or evoking childhood memories, helping to make them feel ‘at home’.

By contrast, certain patterns could disturb patients, such as: large stripes; repetitive geometric patterns, including circles, checks, lozenges, cross-hatching; flakes of strongly contrasting colours; typographical motifs; and imitations of natural materials such as grass, pebbles, leaves, straw etc, as these could be confused by a patient as real materials in an exterior environment.

Floor colours

Floor colours have the same effect as patterns on Alzheimer’s patients: some provide a sense of wellbeing while others can trigger unwanted reactions such as stress and fear.

Acoustic comfort

Noise can be a source of anxiety, particularly in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. By using absorbent partitions and flooring specially designed to reduce the noise of falling objects and footsteps, noise is kept down to a minimum and the comfort of patients and care staff is ensured.

Safety and orientation

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease often experience disorientation, and flooring can provide reassuring spatial markers that help prevent them from getting lost.

Strong colour-contrasting floor patterns can help define the perimeters of risk areas such as kitchens, stairways, balconies and utilities rooms. For example, having a dark line on the floor before a stairwell could deter a patient from entering and thus prevent a fall.

Download our practical guide

For our floor recommendations when designing an Alzheimer’s unit—including how to emphasise intimacy and memory, how to maintain a healthy sleeping schedule, and how to use light to improve well-being—download our Designing Alzheimer’s Facilities guide (XX MB PDF).