How modern flooring solutions are helping to enhance mental health and dementia care settings.
The physical environment of a hospital or care home is vitally important to recovery. Everything from flooring choice to acoustics and interior design play a part in the overall experience of staff, patients and visitors.
But this is even more important in mental health and dementia care facilities, which house some of the most-vulnerable people in society.
Sharron Kapellar, national framework manager at Forbo Flooring Systems, said, “Mental health is a prominent topic in the industry and manufacturers need to be aware of the floor coverings in their portfolio that are suitable for the challenges that arise within such establishments.
“They need to understand the application requirements of individual projects and be able to put forward finishes that will perform most effectively.”
Flooring specification is informed primarily by Health Building Note 03-01 – Adult acute mental health units.
It states that creating a comfortable living environment for service users which ‘maximises the opportunities for normalisation and a domestic-type environment’ is paramount.
In terms of functionality, the guidance adds that infection control and safety must also be taken account of in a risk assessment.
“In general, all flooring [for mental health units], and flooring fittings such as expansion strips, should be specified, manufactured, fitted and maintained to help prevent the possibility of accidents, misuse or use as weapons or to aid self harm.”
Stepping up to the challenge
Richard Burn, Altro’s product manager for flooring, adds, “Many mental health environments call for products to be safe in use, hygienic, robust, easy to clean and maintain, long lasting, and sustainable.
“The challenge for manufacturers is to continue to develop products that are at the same time homely in look and feel. And there must be wide colour choice to provide sufficient colour change between walls, floors, and adjacencies.
“There is also a greater need for materials with acoustic qualities and comfort underfoot as an alternative to carpet and other soft flooring.”
The impact of colour
Colours greatly impact the visual aesthetics of mental health interiors.
Forbo’s Kapellar warns that colours and patterns can provoke a variety of cognitive and emotional responses in patients which can negatively affect their behaviour and coping mechanisms.
“Colours and patterns can be a significant source of overstimulation, and even anxiety, for patients with mental health conditions. Therefore, mental health designers should keep to pastels and neutral greys which have a calming effect” she adds.
Practical factors such as durability, hygiene, air quality, cleanability, and slip resistance remain of equal importance. Forbo’s Modul-up vinyl range, for example, is becoming increasingly popular within mental health and dementia facilities as it does not need to be glued down, reducing disruption time so that areas are not out of action for 48 hours or more.
“Modern products produce less dust, odours and VOC emissions, contributing to creating healthier, more-hygienic and safer indoor environments,” explains Kapellar.
Carpet makes a comeback
There have been innovations in carpet flooring as well as in hard flooring products.
The HBN guidance states that specifiers should consider ‘carpet with an impervious backing and built-in anti-bacterial treatment’ in certain areas, for example where TV or music equipment is located, and in high-traffic areas such as corridors where the noise of staff walking, particularly at night, can disturb patients.
A perfect fit for dementia care environments
Lisa Tomlin, chief executive of Carpet & Flooring, said “Carpet can provide a soft flooring with substantial grip, ensuring residents with dementia are more stable on their feet, increasing confidence, and reducing the chance of an accident.
“And, if a patient does have a fall, which is sometimes inevitable, a cushioned carpet can soften the blow when compared with hard flooring, reducing the impact of the fall and potentially any consequent injuries.”
“Carpet also provides a familiar reassurance to residents as the surroundings feel like ‘home’.
Again though, flooring for dementia environments should avoid strong patterns, opting instead for contrast so that it is clear where boundaries and thresholds lie, she adds.
To help with specification, Altro has developed the Possibilities Studio. Comprising nine separate bays, each has a unique combination of interior finishes and detailing and all are designed with the unique challenges of high-secure mental health units in mind.
“A visit to the studio enables project teams to talk through and better understand both user needs and the range of solutions available,” said Burn.