Monday, August 22, 2016

Wayfinding: Dementia, Alzheimer’s Help (Research, Video 1:48)

I continue to be amazed at how many people with or without mental or physical challenges make their way through busy airports in large cities. This kind of spatial problem solving for finding one's way is known as wayfinding. Even the cues to steer one’s way can be confusing. On occasions when I have asked for directions, I found myself thinking of better ways the information could have been conveyed. Signs, maps, and other graphic or audible methods can be very helpful if they are done to meet needs appropriately.

Imagine the frustration of people with dementia struggling to navigate rooms at home or long winding halls of institutions where a dark colored rug can bring the fear of a hole in the floor. After finding the desired locations, they are confronted with additional tasks of what to do and how to do it. Problems with wayfinding are sometimes early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It’s important that people with Alzheimer’s maintain their independence with wayfinding assistance, especially in large residential environments.

senior residence, the impact of cues was examined with older adults who had normal cognition and those who had Alzheimer’s. Participants were asked to find their way to a location repeatedly in a virtual reality simulation of the senior residence. The two environments consisted of one with wayfinding cues and one without cues. Outcome measures included how often and how quickly participants found the target location in each cue condition. The results of this simulation experience study provide evidence for ways to make the environment more supportive for wayfinding for older adults with Alzheimer's disease.

Wayfinding signs can help people identify objects and find locations. They can be particularly helpful in warning them about dangerous situations and where to locate safety. There are many aids available to assist people with Alzheimer’s. In this video, a person with Alzheimer's explains how signs help him operate more independently in locating his clothes to dress himself.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

1 comment:

  1. Hello and thank you for sharing this article. I was a caregiver for my father and his frustration lead me to researching ways to help. I recently started a company called ForgetMeNots focused on designing functional and beautiful solutions to support independence for people with dementia. I hope this article will help raise the awareness of wayfinding and how much it can help our loved ones. If you are interested, you may check our our wayfinding line at I would love to get your feedback.