Prototypes installed at Brock Fahrni as Residential Care for Me moves into next phase

Mar 3, 2016 | News

There was a lot of hustle and bustle in the halls of Brock Fahrni last Friday morning as four students from Emily Carr’s Health Design Lab (HDL) installed prototypes intended to improve the physical environment and resident experience at the site. Residents, staff, families and even Global BC News came by to check out the action as entryway façades, motion-activated lighting and customizable privacy screens were mounted in resident rooms and common areas as part of the Prototype and Testing phases of the Residential Care for Me project.

The Health Design Lab provides design opportunities to students and faculty through collaborative partnerships that apply solution-focused, human-centred research methodologies to complex problems in health care. The team has worked with most BC health authorities, and groups in both the private and public sectors to co-create innovative solutions.

The design students, overseen by HDL director Jonathan Aitkan, worked with the staff at Brock Fahrni to organize Ideation sessions with residents and families to better understand the common issues and concerns surrounding the physical environment of the site, and to come up solutions to make Brock Fahrni more home-like and improve functionality.

“I really wanted to get involved with a project that would have real world implications that would actually help someone along the road,” says Eilish McVey, a 4th year Industrial Design student.

(L-R): Students Leah Pirani, Emily Ellis and Eilish McVey install the facade on a resident's doorway.

The façade on the residents’ room is made to emulate the typical housefront. The students aim to find out if residents living with dementia will be able to better identify their room by tailoring the colour and details of each entryway.

Michael Lee, third year Industrial Design student, created and installed a motion sensor that triggers an LED strip when a resident is in proximity of the sensor.

“All the lights in residents’ rooms are controlled by central lights – one giant switch that turns everything on or off,” says Michael. “So when a resident wants to go to the washroom, they have to turn on all of the lights in the room.

Michael Lee installs motion-activated lights under a resident's bed.

The goal is to find out how to give light to just one resident, and that resident alone. But installing the prototypes is only half the project; the other half is getting feedback from residents, staff and families to see how they feel about the prototypes and gather suggestions for improvement.

“I tested this myself in my own house,” says Michael. “It looks pretty and it worked, but we want to see how it works for the elders, especially with the flooring they have, the configuration of the space and how they move. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of adjustments we can make to make it better, such as different lighting colour choices or to mount the lights in a different way.”

Eilish and Leah install a privacy curtain with space for residents to post photos and keepsakes.

“That’s why health design is so fun; it’s not just about making something pretty, it’s about making a change and hopefully making a difference,” says director Jonathan Aitken.

"The staff here at Brock Fahrni have been engaged from the get go -  helping to co-ordinate the Ideation sessions, engaging residents and families, and this week they have been distributing surveys and helping to get feedback," says Ursula Piotrowski, site leader at Brock Fahrni. The feedback gathered will lead to another round of prototyping and testing and, eventually, an optimal solution that will work for all involved.

And as for the students’ experience of working with the residents, families and staff and Brock Fahrni?

“It’s been great,” says Eilish. “They’ve been so supportive of us coming in and sort of taking over a door for the day. We’ve been in and out of here a lot, and everyone has been really amazing.”

The Residential Care for Me innovation and improvement initiative is an integral part of the residential care clinical planning work that will serve as the blueprint for redeveloping and renewing our residential care homes and services. Here’s where the Residential Care for Me project is at:

Watch Global BC’s story on the prototypes at Brock Fahrni here: 


What a wonderful initiative, Well done Brock Fahrni.

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