1. Design special treatment areas with the resident in mind by making them comfortable and soothing.

Start from the bottom up, says Jamie Thorn, director of new business development for Forbo Flooring.

“The functionality of the floor needs to be addressed to create a healthy, safe and durable environment,” Thorn says. “Look for ways to eliminate slip and trip in these higher acuity levels.”

Chelsea Rolf, an interior designer at Medline, believes flooring also should be durable, such as a luxury vinyl tile or a slip-resistant hard surface muted in color and possessing antistatic properties.

Thorn says special treatment areas demand an aura of calm, and flooring can go far in managing acoustics to help in that area.

B. Dean Maddalena, a design professional and the founder and president of StudioSIX5, agrees.

“Even though residents might be nonresponsive, studies have shown they still are in tune with their surroundings,” he says. “Their space should have great acoustics to provide a peaceful environment and to be able to control any audio desired by family or caregivers.”

2. For staff, family and visitors, the key words are functional, safe and accommodating.

Shock-absorbing yet quiet flooring can help minimize stress and improve productivity, says Thorn. 

“We should not expect someone to pull a 10-hour shift on something that feels like concrete and not have leg fatigue,” he explains.

The same applies to navigation.

“The design and build of the space should also be spatially organized with good visibility and no dead-end corridors,” observes Rolf. “Including intimate spaces for small conversations is important so staff, visitors or family members can have an opportunity to sit and speak.”

Proper hues also help staff productivity, says Maddalena. 

“Colors should be in the soft cool range, which best highlights skin tones for better diagnosing. Lighter colors will better reflect indirect lighting.”

Provide for the proper multi-generational amenities families and visitors need, such as Wi-Fi and ample electrical outlets and internet jacks for tablets and other electronic devices. Also, provide surfaces for laptops and in-room meals as well, he adds.

3. Furnishings can go far in evoking calm and familiarity — the very “non-institutional” elements of home that these kinds of treatment areas need, says Rolf.

An operative word is durability. Furnishings need to be durable enough to withstand the accidental bangs from wheelchairs and other mobile medical equipment.

“Dining chairs should be of a material that is more durable than wood, such as a poly-mold or aluminum,” Rolf says. She also suggests moisture-resistant, vinyl-upholstered, stain- and soil-repellent seats and backs that are high enough for headrests. 

4. Proper lighting does more for creating an overall ambience than anything else, some experts believe.

For a ventilator unit, for example, blinds-controlled natural lighting and “tuneable” indirect lighting that can follow the color rendition of the day — cool in the morning to warm in the evening — can support circadian rhythm, says Maddalena.

Rolf also is a big proponent of the healing powers of non-glaring natural light, supplemented by just the right amount of ambient light throughout the space to allow caregivers to work.