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Assessing the built environment in care homes for people with dementia

Abbott, S., Birken, M. & Meyer, J. (2017). Assessing the built environment in care homes for people with dementia. The Journal of Dementia Care, 25(3), pp. 32-34.


This article draws on our evaluation of environmental improvements to a care home for people with dementia, some results of which were recently published in this journal (Abbott et al, 2016). Here, we discuss different ways of assessing the built environment of care homes, and suggest how staff teams can approach such a task themselves, or in collaboration with other teams. Such assessments could be used to track changes over time, or to compare different homes. The methods could also be used in staff training to help sensitise or re-sensitise staff to environmental factors in the care that they provide.
We compare the three methods that we used in the evaluation:
• routinely collected data about incidents and behaviours that might reflect the physical environment;
• already existing environmental assessment tools; and
• interviews with staff, residents and visitors about the quality of the environment as a place to live, work or visit.
We consider four key questions in relation to each method:
• Can data be collected quickly and cheaply?
• Does the method intrude on the privacy of residents?
• Does it show how the environment affects residents, visitors and staff?
• Does it also illustrate the context and culture of the home?
The rationales for these questions are self-explanatory except perhaps the last. As we showed in our earlier article (Abbott et al, 2016), those we interviewed highlighted the importance of the overall context and culture of the home: the building can support but cannot determine the overall quality of care. It is therefore useful to know which methods may help to capture some of that context.

Publication Type: Article
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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