Background: Disruptive behaviors are frequent and often the first predictor of institutionalization. The goal of this multi-center study was to explore the perceptions of family and staff members on the potential contribution of environmental factors that influence disruptive behaviors and quality of life of residents with dementia living in long-term care homes.
Methods: Data were collected using 15 nominal focus groups with 45 family and 59 staff members from eight care units. Groups discussed and created lists of factors that could either reduce disruptive behaviors and facilitate quality of life or encourage disruptive behaviors and impede the quality of life of residents. Then each participant individually selected the nine most important facilitators and obstacles. Themes were identified from the lists of data and operational categories and definitions were developed for independent coding by four researchers.
Results: Participants from both family and staff nominal focus groups highlighted facility, staffing, and resident factors to consider when creating optimal environments. Human environments were perceived to be more important than physical environments and flexibility was judged to be essential. Noise was identified as one of the most important factors influencing behavior and quality of life of residents.
Conclusion: Specialized physical design features can be useful for maintaining quality of life and reducing disruptive behaviors, but they are not sufficient. Although they can ease some of the anxieties and set the stage for social interactions, individuals who make up the human environment are just as important in promoting well-being among residents.