Care Home Design What Is the Future? Author Julie Hopkins of Buyacarehome & Ownacarehome
Moving into a less restrictive post Covid-19 society with hospital discharge teams seeking blocked beds for reablement, and coping with a fragile and growing vulnerable population there will continue to be emphasis on Infection Prevention and Control taking feedback from staff and residents.
The latest guidance supplement reference Covid-19 was released on 23 December 2022, with emphasis on Outbreak Management, Staff Testing and PPE (mask) requirements. Winter is particularly prevalent to respiratory conditions and increasingly so it has been reported post pandemic era with society now opened up, with hospitals needing to improve discharges Regulators will continue to ensure that IPC measures are appropriate. Having a care home service with flowing floor plans and adaptability capability will continue to be key in a post pandemic era.
With the delay of the CQC’s Single Assessment Framework providers will still need to be ready for the change to the real time data and sharing of information. The smooth running of a care home business is supported by a home that is designed well whether a converted and extended style or a new build. Having staff work stations, outdoor spaces and IPC and digital processes all help to support the care home operations with efficiency and productivity, in addition to supporting staff retention.
So where does this leave Care Home design and the flow of internal and outdoor space?
The importance of safety and governance of a care home business has been highlighted by the pandemic era and care home design continues to adapt as we look forward into 2023, with a focus on best outcomes for service users and creating a whole service wellness environment for both residents, their families, and the provider’s teams.
Geopolitical events in early 2022 just as the pandemic era was ending highlighted the need for care home businesses to include upgrading their energy supplies in the short to medium turn. The latest news at the time of going to print is that energy support for business will be cut from April, and whether this will include the care and vulnerable sector is yet to be debated.
The new energy scheme will replace the current scheme lasting until 31 March 2024 with a discount applied as opposed to a cap on energy costs with the scheme details yet to be released.
The start of a year normally coincides with the annual look back at the past year, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current care business and looking ahead at the annual strategy with contingencies built around scenario planning. New and extended care home builds are factoring in greener and more energy efficient energy solutions looking at sustainable and cost effective innovations which form part of the zero carbon journey. Green investment seeks to reduce energy costs and create care home sustainability fit for the future. Examples of green technology include investment in solar systems and other forms of renewable energy.
Positive PR to talk about a care home’s greener steps also helps to bond with local communities for a greener and lower carbon environment.
Converted care homes sitting alongside newer and new builds will be continuing to address the cost of living challenges, and as part of the forward vision of a care business will increasingly be considering strategies to lower energy use as a whole working alongside net zero plans.
Planning practical steps towards achieving net zero aspirations will increasingly become part of a care home’s annual operational strategy and incorporated within design plans.
Sitting with care home operational resilience, care home infrastructure and sustainability are key performance indicators forming an intrinsic part of annual business planning.
Future proofing care home design, tackling increased cost of living, creating and stabilising operational resilience, upskilling and reskilling the care workforce and taking on board innovation and advances in technology are strong key performance indicators which support a care home provider’s cash flow resilience and add support for finance applications.
Local community impact
Reaching out and involving the local community can also enhance the care home build and/or refurbishment project. Holding virtual or face to face presentations and keeping the local community informed creates a sense of belonging and community spirit. Having advance knowledge of a build project and watching its development brings communities together, especially if the outdoor space can in some way dove tail with a service to the local community and surrounding area.
Care homes with accessible outdoor spaces which are open to extending their outdoor kitchen, effectively bringing the outdoors in, is an increasing trend in a care home setting and the wider hospitality sector. As part of the green journey food supply chains are looking at their carbon footprint and with a changing climate, already being witnessed in the UK, with changing and longer seasons, combined with technology evolution, a beautiful array of home-grown produce is being grown locally. Where a care home produces excess vegetable produce ways to support local communities can be considered, all part of that community empathy supporting your care brand.
Having accessible landscaped gardens with raised vegetable areas, sensory and nature reserves are all part of an environmental wellness impact both for the residents, families, staff, and other visitors to the care home. Remember the adage that ‘first impressions always count, ’with beautifully landscaped care home gardens also setting the care home apart and helping to increase resident enquiries.
When purchasing the first care home or growing an independent group of care homes location alongside the care home property asset remain key to the service and its operations. Having an easily accessible care home alongside strong branding all help with the care service vision. Creating or joining an extended ‘family’ remains an important ethos which also helps the care home branding reach out into the community. Each care home location and design create their unique atmosphere. The whole team play there part which includes the estate team, the office team, the suppliers and trainers. Thus having a care home that the team can’t wait to work in each day enhances the reputation of the care home service, and location remains key for staff recruitment in addition to community outreach.
Welcome areas indoors and outdoors
Interior care home design whether insourced or outsourced creates the unique environment of the care service. Understanding your residents, families and staff all play their part when succeeding a previous care home owner who is exiting the business/seeking retirement or to move on to pastures new. Taking time to work with a current care service and understanding its needs and fit for purpose requirements are factors in the care home design fabric.
As this year progresses current and future generations are becoming increasingly interested in upcycling and vintage alongside the zero carbon and green offerings. A care home fabric that reaches out to an increasingly ethical society sets itself apart, creates a commercial and visionary brand demonstrating that it is moving with the times.
Talking about local suppliers and how they are part of the care home creates a warm feeling within the local community. This could include sourcing local organic meat and vegetables, growing your own vegetable kitchen garden, linking with schools and colleges, creating wildlife and sensory landscapes, all of which some residents will be keen to feel a part of. It’s the feel good factor.
The kitchen importance
New generations of chefs and kitchen teams bring along new ideas and innovation looking after the next generations of residents and their visitors, offering increasingly diverse menus with local flavours and appealing to different cultures. Taking time to discuss menus with residents and getting tips from them too all adds to a care homes warm welcome. The mixing of old skills and new ideas gives residents and kitchen teams a real sense of belonging and enhances the reputation of the care service.
Having a good kitchen design supports the morale of the teams and can be enhanced by self service areas subject to regulation standards and safeguarding measures.
Websites and photography
The ability to showcase a care home layout, with its unique dining spaces, quiet snug areas and community living alongside the room experience are explored through websites with clarity of photography.
Showing how inspiring a care home community can be with its talented teams and care service speak volumes about the care home design environment. Seeing how a care home operates behind the scenes gives comfort to current and future residents and their families, all increasing the reputation of the care home and helping to increase visitors to its website and residency enquiries.
Creating the story behind generations of care home owners, whether they are passed on to the next generation within the family, managers or new owners come on board, can be a talking point on websites and visible within the care home setting, all creating a sense of belonging. Care home buildings that are refurbished, extended, or newly built have a story tell and inspire the next generations of providers committed to extending their hospitality to an ageing and vulnerable population.
Current and future innovative care home designs will continue to tackle practicalities as well as the increasing demand for greener and lower energy use environments. Care design continues to develop a focus on environments that are comfortable as well as practical, with attention and adaptability to IPC innovation, promoting independence and community spirit.
Open floor plans, natural lighting, outdoor spaces as well as the feeling of bringing the outdoors inside, and the technology march that allows for monitoring in addition to communication remain key. Interest in CCTV remains for communal areas and enhancing safety. Greater emphasis is expected on care home designs that are forward looking, sustainable and energy efficient.
Promotion of best outcomes for residents alongside well being for all remains key aspects of care home design.