Furniture Solutions for People with Limited Mobility & Incontinence.
Seniors and others with limited mobility benefit from specialized seating for comfort, ease of use and safety. Facilities that specialize in the care of limited mobility clients and patients tend to pattern seating in common areas like that of a residence – clustered to encourage socialization, allow easy TV viewing, or to make group activities easier. While furniture arrangement may mirror residential, the furniture itself requires special considerations. Contract furniture sellers offer specialized seating pieces designed to offer maximum benefit to anyone with limited mobility and or incontinence.
Here are a few modifications that can make seating an asset to your limited mobility consumers:
- Arms. Arms on chairs are a necessity for those with limited mobility as they provide extra support for transitioning from sitting to standing and vice versa.
- Seat Height. Seniors and others with limited mobility often suffer from reduced muscle tone. In these cases, seat height must be higher to enable the extension of the knee from the sitting to standing position. Seat Height should range from 20” to 22”.
- Seat Depth. A shorter seat depth also aids in the transition from sitting to standing. Seat depth should range from 20” to 22”.
- Cushion Firmness. All seating pieces intended for use by individuals with limited mobility should have a cushion since the person tends to stay seated for extended periods of time. A cushion should not be so soft that it creates an obstacle for standing but should not be so hard that it is uncomfortable for extended use.
- Other Considerations. Fabric and other design enhancements can add to the comfort and function of seating for those with limited mobility. Limited mobility and incontinence tend to go hand in hand. Fabrics such as Crypton© offer a high-degree of fluid-resistance and can protect upholstered furniture from odor and staining. In addition, pop-out and clean out seat designs encourage fluids away from the client and the furniture. Caregivers and staff can easily access fluid clean-ups which are forced to the floor.
- Bariatric Seating: Bariatric furniture includes a wide variety of wood, metal and upholstered seating pieces that are designed and tested to hold up to heavier weights then standard furniture pieces. Wider seats. Extra heavy duty construction. Stronger Frames.
Beyond common area seating, dining seating also requires specialized functionality and design.
Dining chairs should have upholstered seats for comfort. Just as with living room seating, shorter seat height and depth is effective for dining chairs. In addition, dining chairs with casters on the rear legs only can add stability for transitioning from sitting to standing while allowing clients and patients additional freedom while seated. Pulling up to the table becomes substantially easier when the rear legs have casters.
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Managers and executives in group living environments - from university housing to group homes - agree that the one of biggest challenges they have is buying furniture that is tougher than their clients.
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- The benefits of using the right furniture for a group home or group living facility are many.
- From comfort of the consumer to ease of use for staff to creating the feeling of home that reassures consumers’ families - the right furniture makes a difference.
Having had the privilege of having talked to hundreds of group home staff and administrators, we have compiled a list of THE 9 PIECES OF FURNITURE that GROUP HOMES STAFF CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!
When planning new furniture for your group living facility always choose a furniture provider who understands the needs of your consumers and has offering that will be durable and appropriate.
- Wood Framed Sofa, Loveseat and Lounge Chairs. Frequently called Crate-Style or Tough Stuff furniture, seating pieces with exposed wood frames and replaceable cushions offers durability that stands up to heavy use. Even for consumers with behavioral outbursts this style of furniture maintains its rugged, durable functionality.
- Replaceable Cushions. Again, Crate-Style or Tough Stuff Furniture (see above) has easily replaceable cushions that can be changed out due to wear or to keep up with fashion trends. Replacing cushions is an inexpensive way to keep frequently used seating pieces fresh and looking good.
- Wood Dressers and Night Stands with Routed Pulls. Furniture hardware can dress up furniture but can add hazard and frustration. For consumers with limited fine motor skills, routed pulls offer easier opening of drawers and doors. Additionally, routed pulls eliminate many of the self-harm hazards that external hardware may present.
- Fluid-Proof Mattresses. Nylon or soft, pliable vinyl mattress covers offer great protection from spilled drinks. Even occasional incontinence can be effectively managed with fluid-resistant or fluid-proof mattresses.
- One Piece Molded Chairs. One-piece molded chairs are lightweight but highly durably for consumers of any size or shape. Rated for static weight up to 1200 lb., one-piece molded chairs can take the most extreme use without chipping or breaking. For more difficult consumers options to bolt to the floor or weight with sand offer a high degree of security and safety.
- Adjustable Height Tables. Adjustable height tables offer the most inclusive surfaces for activities or dining. The ability to adjust the height makes these tables the right solution for consumers in wheelchairs or who require the aid of other mobility devices that are not easily accommodated by traditional tables. A table that adjusts from 28” – 34” will offer the most flexibility for group homes or group living facilities.
- Motion Seating. Motion offers comfort to consumers with developmental disabilities. Rocking or gliding is calming and reassures anxious individuals. Selecting a contract-grade motion chair is important since retail-grade rockers, gliders and recliners are not designed for the type of constant and repetitive use typical in group living environments.
- Outdoor Tables. Fresh air and sunshine are great enhancements to all consumers so why not make the most of the space outside? Outdoor wood or plastic coated metal tables and benches are great for dining or activities. ADA Compliant tables have benched and benchless sides to allow people of any mobility to enjoy some time in nature.
- Storage and Bookcase Beds. Often consumers who are full-time residents need more storage space then a typical group home bedroom allows. Storage beds make efficient use of available space by adding storage drawers and bookcase shelving to beds. Shelves allow consumers and staff easy access to favorite books and personal items. Under bed storage is a perfect solution for seasonal clothes and other non-daily necessities.
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Physically ill patients need to primarily be in bed to heal but behavioral / psychological health patients need to be encouraged to come out of their rooms and engage in shared spaces.So how do you design common areas and day spaces to promote social engagement?Here are five ways that furniture can work to create a space that patients want to use:
In behavioral healthcare, the goal is to get patients out of their rooms and into interactive, social environments.
When designing your BHC’s common spaces there are many important considerations.
- Make common spaces inviting with comfortable, casual furniture. Consider using fully upholstered furniture to create functional areas where patients can engage in therapies, conversations with healthcare professionals, read, journal, etc. To get the most of your furniture dollars, be sure to use contract-grade furniture that will stand up to heavy use.
- If destructive behaviors or psychiatric outbursts are a concern there are a wide variety of furnishing options ranging from highly durable upholstered seating to molded plastic seating that can be weighted or bolted to protect patients and staff. Experienced contract furniture providers who specialize in BHC can recommend the right pieces of furniture that will balance the need for home-like comfort with the safety and durability required of high-risk behavioral patients.
- Keep shared spaces geared towards quiet activities by providing game tables or functional workspaces, not distracting television areas or other loud spaces. While comfortable seating invites patients to engage in therapies and reading or other quiet pleasures, adding game tables or work tables where patients can use art therapies or project work adds functionality. Having game and work tables incorporated in common spaces not only encourages patients to engage outside their rooms but also helps staff because patients are within general visual range. Game-top tables with checker / chess boards laminated to the top are a great way to have activities at the ready and encourage patient engagement without the need to store boxed game boards.
- Consider the age and other health concerns of patients to create spaces that are relatable and encourage comfort. Elderly patient populations may have different expectations of comfort then younger patients. Older patients may find more comfort in traditional styling and color schemes whereas younger patients may find more contemporary styles and color schemes more appealing. If serving a cross-generational population, consider neutral colors and furniture with more “transitional” styling. Transitional styling combines elements of both traditional and more modern sensibilities to create a furniture designs that includes fewer curves and a more traditional scale.
- Comfort and function of furniture are important considerations. Furniture form or style is typically a primary consideration because the look of a space has to encourage patient use, but functionality is also important. Elderly and limited mobility patients might need additional considerations such as furniture designed for incontinence or ease of moving from sitting to standing positions. Patients weighing over 250 pounds might need bariatric considerations. High risk behavior patients might need additional safety and security features.
It is always important to involve an experience design team who can make recommendations that fit the needs of your patient population.
- Encouraging patients to leave their rooms to engage with staff, family and other patients are critical components in healing.
- Finding the right balance of furnishings that meets the needs of the consumers while fitting into an overall functional design can be challenging.
Behavioral Healthcare Furniture
Recently I was talking to an interior designer who took her first healthcare design job. This particular interior designer had a lot of residential experience but when I asked her about selecting contract-grade furniture, she was totally unaware that there was furniture designed for non-residential applications. While the elements of good residential interior design might translate well into a commercial healthcare or group living environment, the furniture and fixtures do not. Bland, sterile-looking healthcare facilities are a thing of the past. Aesthetics now encompass a broad range of healing elements including energetic color-schemes and nature-based hues that encourage comfort. But beyond the basics of color is a new world of functionality. Furniture and fixtures for health care and healing environments must also prevent falls, encourage mobility, discreetly deal with incontinence and fluids, maintain sterile surfaces and support the latest patient-centered technologies.
So what exactly is contract-grade furniture?
Contract-grade furniture is designed and built by specialized manufacturers whose construction methods and materials produce a higher-quality piece of furniture that stands up to heavy use. Additionally, fabrics for contract environments are tested to standards that are not applicable in residential design.
Healthcare design is an exciting and rewarding field promising substantial growth for experienced interior designers. Patient expectations have encouraged interior design that is more exciting then the monochrome, sterile interiors of 20 or 30 years ago. Health care design takes many cues from residential design so the demand for interior designers with a good eye for residential design is a natural. But, interior designers willing to take on contract environments should take time to familiarize themselves with standards required by accrediting agencies and local codes as well as options that will improve the form and function of furniture and fixtures. Always engage a reputable contract furniture dealer who can help you understand the needs of contract health care and group living facilities so that you and your design project will shine!
- Fabric finishes are far more durable than a traditional Scotch-Guard surface treatment and many fabric finishes can handle urine and body fluids without penetrating vulnerable foam and frame components of seating pieces. All contact furniture is tested to comply with commercial fire codes CAL 117 and most can be tested to pass CAL 133.
- Contract furniture designs can easily adapt dimensions of seating pieces to accommodate bariatric and limited mobility needs. Reinforced and metal frames can allow up to 800 lb. per seating surface. Shorter seat depths and higher arm heights on sofas, loveseats and chairs enables mobility by making the physics of taking a person from a seated position to a standing position an easier transition.
- Many health care facilities are subject to inspection and accreditation standards so making sure that all design elements including furniture and fixtures comply is essential.
- Patient and staff safety is always a primary concern. Understanding the specific needs of the patient population, staff and visitors is crucial since design needs may include things like managing self-harm risk, preventing assemblies that can be used as weapons, eliminating sharp edges, minimizing tripping or falling risks and optimizing independence are topics that many designers have not had to take into consideration on non-contract projects.
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