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Decorating a Care Home: Factors you need to consider

Decorating a care home requires more than simply making the surroundings neat and convenient. Considering factors such as safety, orientation and homeliness is vital when decorating a care home that is suitable for your clients.

If you have designed a plan for the interior of your care home, it is useful to consider the following questions:



Can individuals with cognitive impairments make sense of their surroundings?


Making sense of our environment is paramount to health and quality of life. For people with cognitive impairments such as Dementia, impaired memory and a reduced ability to reason can contribute to confusion, anxiety and a reduced quality of life. Well considered interior design can help reduce this anxiety by providing cues to help people make sense of their surroundings. Research from the residential care industry, for example, shows clear evidence that good design is particularly beneficial to the well-being of people with Dementia and visual impairment.


Dementia can impact a person’s vision so that patterns on fabrics and curtains can appear distorted, or the edges of tables and chairs can become blurred. It is therefore useful for your care home to have furniture in a contrasting colour to the carpet. Wardrobes and chests of drawers should have easy to use openings. Warmer tones used on walls are easier for elderly residents to see. You should invest in matt surfaces and slip resistant flooring, avoiding patterns, speckles or sparkles that can be confusing.


People living with dementia can easily become intimidated by their surroundings, so it is beneficial to use visual cues and aids for navigation. You should consider investing in the following:



  • Clear signs (using pictures and words) to enable residents to move around confidently. At Countrywide Healthcare, we supply a range of visual aids such as signs to provide individuals with additional guidance.


You can shop our range of wayfinding and orientation aids here.



  • Memory boxes for residents to fill with personal items for reminiscence and to help navigate them to their room
  • Higher than normal lighting levels and enhanced use of natural daylight
  • Fixtures and fittings that create links to the past, from black and white photographs of the local area in bygone days to vintage-style radios and gramophones


Is the environment safe for those with mobility problems?


A large fraction of seniors use wheelchairs or other mobility aids to support them when moving around. It is therefore important that there is no clutter and that the surroundings of your care home are safe. Your home must be clean and free of excess clutter that can hamper mobility, cause accidental falls, and lead to misplaced supplies. Ensure there are no risks associated with environmental hazards, such as untethered scatter rugs, poor lighting, slippery floor finishes, and mobile furniture. It is common for people with Dementia to develop incontinence and need additional help for getting to and from a bathroom. It may be useful to ensure that residents can easily reach bathrooms without any potential danger. Look out for things such as objects in the way of an entrance to a bathroom, doors which have faulty locks or any carpets or rugs which have come loose and may be a hazard.


To ensure your care home allows your residents to have safe mobility, you should ensure your rooms comply to the following guidelines:


Bedroom Safety


  • Ensure that clutter is cleared from the floor so that nothing is in the way
  • Provide a flashlight and telephone that are within easy reach near client’s beds
  • Nightlights should be placed along the path from the bedroom to the bath
  • Raised mattresses should be available to assist residents in getting in and out of bed easily



Living Room Safety



  • Furniture should be arranged safely to create clear paths between rooms
  • Ensure that objects such as coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests and plants are removed from pathways in rooms used with walkers or crutches
  • In rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting, carpet should be secure with no wrinkles or raised areas
  • Light switches should be easily accessible at entrances to rooms
  • Ensure that dark switches or sound-activated lamps are available
  • Loose rugs need to be secured with double faced tape or slip resistant backing
  • Electric appliance and telephone cords should be out of the way, however ensure they are not put under rugs
  • Ensure there are no wobbly chairs or tables which can be leaned upon
  • Remove any loose wood floorboards that need repair
  • Furniture should be firm, high with no armrests to assist in standing
  • Insert a cordless phone close so there is no danger of hurrying to reach the phone


Kitchen Safety


  • Ensure there are no throw rugs
  • Keep the kitchen hazard-free in ensuring there is no liquid, grease or food spilled on the floor that needs to be cleaned up
  • Food, dishes and cooking equipment should be stored at an easy-to-reach, waist high level
  • Ensure a step stool with a handrail is available to reach upper cabinets
  • No-skid floor wax should be used on the floor
  • A counter-top toaster oven should be inserted to avoid leaning over to or trying to reach an oven



  • Stairways need to be well lit and have stair treads
  • Ensure a strong handrail is inserted, preferably on both sides



  • Carpet is not patterned or deep pile
  • Carpet is solid color to show the edges of steps more clearly
  • A brightly coloured piece of tape is used if there is difficulty seeing the edge of the stairs


Is the environment homely and inviting?


Achieving a homely feeling care environment is incredibly important. For example, if you have a family looking at prospective care homes for their loved ones, they will be more inclined to choose one that doesn’t look overly clinical and cold. Charities such as Age UK even advise families to look for homeliness when looking at care environments. A homely aesthetic can immediately make the individual feel more comfortable and less intimidated. It also gives a sense of community amongst residents/patients, which is integral to improving quality of care, and quality of life. Decorating an elder’s nursing home room can help keep them happy and focused. It can also serve as a reminder to them, as well as to visitors, that they are more than just another resident. The Alzheimer’s Society guides their readers, “a smart hotel-style environment might impress visitors initially, but visitors should remember that it is going to be a place to live”.



Does the design comply with Skilled Nursing Facilities Federal Regulations?



Federal regulations, which are overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), require that skilled nursing facilities provide the following to all residents:


  • A room with a window to the outside for natural light and orientation to the time of day, weather and season
  • A bed of appropriate size and height
  • A clean, comfortable mattress
  • Bedding which is appropriate to the weather/climate
  • Furniture appropriate to the resident’s needs, including a separate closet or clothing storage spaces



These regulations also require SNFs to provide a “safe, clean comfortable and homelike environment.” The goal is for these facilities to be less institutional and more homelike, so residents have the opportunity to bring many items and personal effects with them to help create a meaningful and individual living space.

Read our blog to find out about the key attributes visitors look for when choosing a care home.