Trinity researchers launch Ireland’s first dementia-friendly hospital guidelines

The guidelines are the result of a two-and-a-half year long collaborative project between TrinityHaus and the School of Medicine

 Researchers from TrinityHaus, a research centre within Trinity’s School of Engineering, have collaborated with the School of Medicine to launch a set of Dementia Friendly Hospital Guidelines, the first of its kind in Ireland.

The guidelines aim to provide a better hospital experience for people with dementia, their families and their caregivers. It gives detailed instructions for dealing with dementia-specific design issues prevalent in Irish hospitals.

For those suffering with dementia, the already stressful experience of visiting a hospital can be exacerbated by cognitive impairment and behavioural or psychological symptoms, making the experience even more distressing.

TrinityHaus and the School of Medicine worked on the guidelines for almost three years. They examined how hospitals can provide a better experience for people with dementia through a universal design approach, which ensures that hospitals are equipped to give patients as comfortable an experience as possible regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

The chairperson of the National Disability Authority (NDA), Helen Guinan, commented on the importance of the universal design approach, saying: “If new hospitals or alterations to existing hospitals are built in line with a universal design Dementia friendly approach, they will reduce environmental stress, provide supports, and contribute to more healthful and therapeutic outcomes.”

The principal investigator of the research project and Professor in Medical Gerontology Desmond O’Neill highlighted the significance of the project for people suffering with Dementia: “Rather than being othered into a two-dimensional and grim label from which our collective gaze was averted, particularly in terms of the design and function of our hospitals, we now are beginning to appreciate that including the world view and perspectives of those of us living with dementia is imperative for the future design of all healthcare facilities.”

Chief Architectural Advisor of the Health Business Services (HBS) Estates said that the guidelines have “significant potential” and will help to “ensure that the hospital environments we create into the future do not give rise to added difficulties but provide instead significant support to all who use them”. The project was funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and Atlantic Philanthropies.

Danielle Olavario

Danielle Olavario is a former SciTech Editor of Trinity News. She is a Microbiology graduate.