Press release

£50 million investment to give people with dementia specially designed care homes and wards

Dedicated funding to create care environments for people with dementia, which aid treatment by helping avoid confusion and keeping patients calm, was announced today by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Up to £50 million will be available to NHS Trusts and local authorities working in partnership with social care providers to help tailor hospitals and care homes to the needs of those with dementia.

Improved designs of this kind have been shown to help dementia patients manage their condition better, by helping to reduce agitation and confusion.

The funding could be used for specially designed rooms and spaces that might include:

  • hi-tech sensory rooms using lighting, smells and sound to stimulate those with dementia;
  • large print photos of local scenes from years gone by to help people with dementia feel connected to their past;
  • specially adapted outside space to prevent patients from wandering, by helping them keep busy and active with activities such as gardening;
  • technology such as day/night clocks and controllable mood lighting to emulate day and night, which help people with dementia stay independent and well-cared for; or
  • simple changes such as the use of calming colours, non-reflective surfaces, large-print signs and the creation of zones to help residents know where they are and find their way back to their room.

The money will be used to expand the range of care services offering dedicated dementia friendly environments, and to promote further use of design techniques to help the growing number of people with dementia get the best possible care.

Every project will involve dementia patients, their families and carers in the design, to ensure they fully meet the needs of those with the condition.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“Being one of the best for dementia is a priority for this Government, and doing what we can to help people with the condition feel more safe and secure in their environment is an important part of this.

“Responding with dignity and compassion to dementia is the only sensible reaction to the urgent challenges we face as our population ages.

The funding will be used to adapt care homes and hospitals using design principles proven by Kings Fund pilots to help people with dementia overcome common problems associated with the condition, such as wandering and anxiety, and enable people to move around safely without confusion.

Research by The King’s Fund revealed that cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes were the top reasons for causing confusion and distress in people with dementia.

Taking steps such as using a particular colour scheme, creating a designated quiet space or establishing a gardening patch designed significantly helped to reduce patient distress and assisted with the management of the condition.

Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

“Our work with teams in hospitals and care homes demonstrates that it is possible to transform care and improve health and wellbeing for people with dementia by creating better, more appropriate care environments. By putting the specific needs of people with dementia first in the way we design wards and care homes its possible to make a very big difference to people living with dementia, their families and the staff who support them.”

Funding will go to NHS Trusts and local authorities working in partnership with social care providers to make improvements. But the money will only be awarded if care providers sign up to the Dementia Care and Support Compact, which commits them to providing first rate care and support for people with dementia and their families.

Successful bids will form part of a national pilot to showcase the best examples of ‘dementia friendly environments’ by building knowledge and evidence about what aspects of the physical environment can be used to improve the care of people with dementia.

Outcomes from the new projects will be used to advise Local Health and Wellbeing Boards to help create the best environments for dementia care.

Local areas can bid for funding over the next few months. Funding will be provided so that projects can commence by April 2013.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society said:

“Whether it’s a sunny day or calming decor, the environment around us has a real impact on our quality of life. This is especially true for people with dementia who may be experiencing sensory difficulties or may become confused in unfamiliar places.

“Designs that connect people with their past and promote a personalised care approach to help reduce anxiety and confusion can be particularly beneficial. Two thirds of people in care homes have some form of dementia and numbers of those with the condition are soaring so delivering quality care across the board is vital.”


**The National Children and Adult Services Conference 2012 is being held at The Devonshire Park Centre in Eastbourne and runs from 24th - Friday 26th October

  1. For filming opportunities or further information, please call the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5435
  2. A copy of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia is available to download on the Department of Health website.

Case studies of completed projects with examples of good design. Filming opportunities available

 King’s College Marjory Warren Ward, London SE1

In Dec 2011, King’s College Hospital became the first hospital in London to completely transform one of its wards into a unique, sensory environment for older people.

A non-slip, wood-effect floor was installed to replace the shiny and patterned one in place before. People with dementia can mistake shiny surfaces for water and be afraid to walk on them. The bathroom floors are now plain linoleum because people with dementia can mistake patterns for dirt or objects on the floor and try to pick them up, which increases their risk of falls.

People with dementia often cannot remember which bed they are in because they all look so similar. Each bay and side room now has its own unique identity. Patients can tell which bay they are in by the entrance artwork and the colour of the back walls.

As people with dementia are often confused about the time, day/night clocks are used to help patients know what time of day it is. This is enhanced through the use of mood lighting, which mimics the time of day. Hospital staff also encourage relatives to bring in personal items such as photos to trigger memories.

Certain colours are associated with specific dementia-related behaviour. The ward uses lots of blue as it is relaxing, calms aggression and can ease insomnia. Pink also reduces aggressive behaviour. Some of the bays have a orange/terracotta feature wall. This colour encourages a sense of well-being, joy and movement. It also helps people to recover. The plain, white walls are peaceful and help to balance emotions. The scent of lavender is used to create a calming atmosphere.

St Mary’s Nursing Home in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough

St Mary’s is a purpose-built Bupa care home, providing nursing, dementia, respite, convalescence and palliative care.

The entrance to the wing is decorated like a typical British home from the 1950s/60s, with colourful, patterned wallpaper, china plates mounted on the walls and other small insightful decorative touches that make it feel like the entrance to a home.

The door to each resident’s private room is designed to look like the front door to a traditional home, painted in a bright colour and furnished with a door knocker. Personal photographs and mementos decorate the outside of each room, making each room an obviously personal space. The walls of the wing are designed to engage residents, while providing nostalgic images which resonate with them -posters of the Beatles, war-time Britain and the rat-pack decorate all the possible space. Alongside these photographs, mounted interactive games engage residents as they pass - an abacus, framed swatches of textured material, a key and lock - all are designed to both visually and physically engage each resident.

Alongside these special tools designed by Bupa experts, more personal touches are obvious everywhere. The hairdresser who comes to the home every week advertises hairdos emulating Hollywood idols such as Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, while photographs of family, friends and activity days decorate each resident’s bedroom.

St Mary’s features extensive gardens that provide an area for residents to enjoy the outdoors. The dementia care wing has a bespoke garden featuring a ‘beach scene’ - a wall length mural paints a typical day at the beach, while deck chairs and other ornaments provide residents an area to relax.

Published 25 October 2012