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J Gerontol Nurs. 2014 Sep;40(9):50-6. doi: 10.3928/00989134-20140325-01. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

The impact of an acute psychiatry environment on older patients and their families.


Ethnographic methods (observations and interviews) were used to investigate the physical environment of a geriatric psychiatry unit to understand how it meets the needs of patients with mental health conditions. Four interrelated themes of environmental qualities emerged as central in promoting healing: therapeutic, supportive of functional independence, facilitative of social connections, and personal safety and security. Therapeutic describes the existence of a home-like environment and quality sensory stimulations. Supportive of functional independence refers to the environmental features that make it easy for older adults to mobilize and perform activities of daily living. Facilitative of social connections indicates the provision of social spaces for patients, families, and staff to interact and engage in meaningful activities. Personal safety and security involves having staff in close proximity and minimizing disruptions from confused patients. The evidence suggests that the physical environment is important in making hospitals safe and supportive of healing for older adults with mental health conditions.

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