Nursing homes are designed to serve usually elderly patients who require long-term, therapeutic and preventive care. Residents normally have non-acute medical conditions and are frail but not bedridden. They may need canes or walkers to help them get around and aid with everyday tasks such as eating, dressing and washing. Most nursing home residents will stay for the remaining months or years of their life, which is why the design of the home is so important.
A nursing home isn’t just a facility where care is provided – it really is a home for its residents. This special design challenge means that the environment of the nursing home must be conducive to both emotional and physical long-term human needs. A welcoming atmosphere must combine with all the practicality that is needed to give a good quality of medical care. Nursing homes are unique in that they’re very patient-focussed, so the overall design scheme is an essential part of the quality of the home.
The nursing home environment can have a great impact upon the health of its residents. Architects and designers must pay attention to details such as catering for those with physical or mental disabilities, or loss of sight, yet still retain a homely atmosphere. A welcoming environment is far more conducive to the recovery of patients than a sterile hospital.
The efficiency of a nursing home is also very important, both for the care of the residents and for the performance of the nursing staff. There should be short distances between frequently-used areas for example, such as dining halls and bathrooms. This allows frail residents ease of access to areas of the home. Spaces should be open and incorporate interior windows to allow nursing staff to see large areas of the home at any one time. This minimises the number of staff needed for supervision and also frees up staff to perform other important tasks.
Cleanliness is a third important feature of a nursing home, because many patients may experience some form of incontinence. Not only is this unsanitary, it can give an overall impression of an unhygienic environment if the nursing home has an unpleasant odour. Easy-clean surfaces are therefore an integral part of the design, as is effective ventilation and built-in housekeeping spaces. All of the finishes on surfaces must be durable to protect them from both stains and knocks, and there should be no unfilled cracks or crevices which could hide dirt or be difficult to clean.
The nursing home furniture can also aid both hygiene and the performance of the nursing staff. Easy-clean fabrics are essential, and furniture can also be designed to give staff ease of access to patients. The overall scheme must still be homely however, so furniture must create a warm, welcoming look but still retain its functionality.
These design considerations present a unique challenge to designers and architects, but when met they can help to give nursing home patients a good quality of care and a comfortable environment for as long as they need it.