In 2006, The Center for Health Design published Health Promotion by Design in Long-Term Care Settings. In that paper, researchers discussed their review of more than 250 articles.
They found that the physical environment affects outcomes among patients, their families and the people who take care of them in three different ways:
- Quality of life for the resident
- Resident safety
- Staff stress
Quality of Life
Physical aspects of the environment, such as layout, reduced noise, access to outside space, and supportive features may be associated with better elderly care outcomes. For example, quiet living space helps seniors sleep better and easy-to-navigate layouts improve orientation. A healthy environment can reduce aggression and disruptive behavior among residents, and improve social interaction. Supportive features, such as a gym or access to a pool, provide opportunities for seniors to exercise to improve the quality of their lives; access to the outdoors is also important to a resident’s health and well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the typical 100 bed nursing home reports 100 – 200 falls each year; many falls go unreported. The CDC also says that approximately 1,800 long-term care residents die each year from falls. Environmental hazards are responsible for 16 to 27 percent of these falls.
A healthy environment removes any obstacles that might cause harm to residents as they walk about the premises and engage in the activities of daily living. The environment should also protect residents from infections and unintended wandering from the residence.
The morale of the workers providing elderly care indirectly affects the residents’ quality of life – happy workers take better care of patients. Environments equipped with tools, such as ceiling lifts to move residents, result in fewer work-related injuries while increasing worker morale and satisfaction. Nurses and residents alike prefer a home-like ambience in the long-term care setting.
Maintaining a healthy environment in long-term elderly care improves outcomes for every resident, his family and staff.