Floor signage and people with dementia

The use of the floor signage to communicate wayfinding has increased during the current pandemic in aged care homes and other public areas. Tape and stickers are being applied to floors in supermarkets and workplaces to indicate social distancing measures and barriers.  In residential aged care, floor signage has been used as a means to help people find their way around the care home.

The Dementia Centre has published a position paper “The use of floor-mounted wayfinding signage for people with dementia living in residential aged care”. The paper provides recommendations on the use of floor mounted signage with a particular focus on minimising its use and potential application in individual cases.

 The paper outlines that successful wayfinding relies on a person:

  • being able to understand their environment,
  • orientating themselves in a physical space
  • being able to decide to go somewhere,
  • knowing their destination,
  • knowing and following a route and
  • recognising the destination on arrival.

Although studies have indicated some benefits of floor signage for people with dementia who are vision impaired, these are limited.

The use of floor-mounted signage for people with dementia living in residential care

Floor-mounted signage normally takes the form of stickers, tape or painted lines which lead users along a route or indicate a destination. Frequently installed in hospitals, car parks, shopping malls and transport hubs, they are sometimes also used in care home environments. In the public realm their primary purpose is as a novel and effective way to help people find their way, particularly in large spaces where there is little wall space for traditional signage.

HammondCare Dementia Support recommendations

  • Signage should be used minimally in a residential care home environment, once other strategies for improving wayfinding have been implemented.
  • Signage on the floor should not be used as part of a general wayfinding strategy in a residential aged care setting.
  • In an individual person’s case, when all other methods of helping the person find their way have been employed and been unsuccessful, repositionable signage could be trialled at a height which interrupts the view of the person in the first instance on the wall (maximum 1.2m above floor level).
  • Avoid positioning signage on the floor unless:
    • there is no available wall space at a low level and
    • the floor is only used by the resident in question (e.g. in their bedroom, outside their ensuite bathroom)
  • As with most signage, use a system which can be removed without damage, so that it is easily trialled and can be removed if the person’s needs change.
  • All signage employed should be clear, simple and meaningful to the person. Consider the environmental context of the sign, and any symbol used as well as lighting, size of symbol and ‘readability’.
  • Placing floor stickers such as strongly contrasting lines, blocks of colour or strong patterns, is not acceptable as a method of reducing a person’s access to an area.

Download the position paper to read more.