The tradition of specifying hard flooring in dementia settings is taking a back seat as carpet makes a comeback
The increased focus on infection control has meant the use of carpet in health and social care settings has taken a back seat to hard flooring, which is perceived to be easier to clean. But carpet is beginning to make a comeback, particularly in dementia facilities
Long-term maintenance costs and the ability to retain a pristine appearance over time are key considerations when selecting flooring products for health and social care settings.
But, while hard flooring solutions may seem the most-appropriate choice, manufacturers are beginning to see renewed interest in carpet, particularly in dementia environments.
And there is good reason for this switch.
Karen Burman, product manager for Gradus floor coverings, said: “Carpets are a particularly strong choice for health and social care environments as they have been developed to make the cleaning of spillages and soiling easier, helping to ensure the carpet retains a fresh look throughout its lifecycle.
Warmer and less clinical in appearance than other types of floor covering, carpets can create a pleasant, welcoming and comfortable environment that will help to put patients or residents at ease
“In addition to being easy to clean and maintain, carpets offer a variety of additional benefits for healthcare environments.
“Warmer and less clinical in appearance than other types of floor covering, carpets can create a pleasant, welcoming and comfortable environment that will help to put patients or residents at ease.”
Catherine Helliker of danfloor added: "Carpet is increasingly being specified in dementia care environments for four key reasons: acoustics, falls prevention, aesthetics, and air quality.
"Within a dementia care facility, corridors and lounges can be very busy places at all times of the day or night. The presence of carpet in such areas helps to absorb unwanted sound; reducing the reverberation time of the room. This is critical for people with difficulty hearing and for those with dementia as it makes it easier to filter out unwanted noises and therefore reduces stress and confusion."
Studies have also shown that carpet, when compared with vinyl, can reduce injuries caused by slips, trips and falls. It’s also been proven that the gait speed and step length is greater in older people walking on carpeted areas than on vinyl. In addition, whether it is purely psychological, people seem more confident when walking on carpet as they may perceive it will cushion their fall and cause less injury than if they were to fall on a harder surface.
Indoor air quality should also be considered when it comes to flooring in the dementia care sector, especially if there are residents with breathing difficulties such as asthma.
Danfloor has published a number of documents to help with specifying carpets in dementia and other healthcare settings
Over the last 10 years there have been numerous studies into the use of carpet verses hard floor surfaces and what effect these two flooring solutions have on air quality.
Fine dust can present a significant health hazard, especially for allergy sufferers, as particles may cause irritation when they are breathed in and enter the respiratory tract.
Many of the studies suggest that carpet retains dust particles, unlike hard surfaces, where they regularly become airborne.
If carpets are regularly vacuumed these dust particles, and allergens that are bound within fine dust particles, are removed from the room without causing discomfort.
Finally, carpet creates a welcome home-from-home atmosphere, crucial for those with dementia who can become easily confused within a strange environment.
Helliker said: “All care homes these days are trying to move away from an institutional look and feel with the aim of creating a more-homely atmosphere. Therefore, it’s essential to have carpet where possible.”
danfloor has published a number of documents to help with specifying carpets in dementia and healthcare settings. These provide advice on selecting the most-appropriate solution, based on key factors such as light reflectance values (LRV).
Overall cost can also help sway designers as, contrary to popular belief, carpet can actually cost a lot less than hard flooring.
Looking at it on an annual basis it takes two-and-a-half times longer to clean hard floors than carpet and the cleaning chemicals needed for hard floors are seven times more expensive, so there are cost savings in terms of time
Helliker explains: “If you were to have hard flooring as opposed to carpets, the lifecycle costs can be up to two times higher depending on the intensity of use.
“Looking at it on an annual basis it takes two-and-a-half times longer to clean hard floors than carpet and the cleaning chemicals needed for hard floors are seven times more expensive, so there are cost savings in terms of time.”
But how carpets are maintained is crucial.
“If you initiate a good cleaning maintenance schedule from the time of installation, with regular vacuuming, you will maintain the appearance of the carpet,” said Helliker.
There are two main ways of cleaning carpets. Dry cleaning involves putting particles down that take out dirt and debris, then hoovering those up. This approach is good for care environments as there is no need to evacuate rooms and no risk of slipping because the floor is wet.
There is also wet extraction, where you remove the water afterwards. While this does mean carpets are slightly wet, they dry much quicker than hard floors would.
Helliker concludes: “Infection control is a massive issue in acute hospitals and care environments and carpets can help, as long as they are cleaned.
“As long as you choose the right product and not a cheap alternative, infection control should not be an issue and there is a growing library of research to support that.”