Last updated on August 2019

Effects of Visual Cues and Education for People Who Live Within Long Term Care Communities to Assist in Wayfinding


Brief description of study

The ability to find one's way in the world is known as wayfinding. Many older adults who live in senior communities, such as independent living and assisted living residences, find wayfinding very challenging. Often times, these communities are not designed in a way that helps people find their way very easily. When people cannot find their way, they can get lost, be dependent upon others for getting out and about, or even be afraid to leave their rooms. The purpose of this study is to find out if distinctive signs and decorative elements, along with a special type of education called Spaced-Retrieval education, help residents in these communities find their way more effectively. Twelve senior communities will be assigned by chance to one of three conditions, including: 1) control - no change (the community stays the same); 2) signs and decorative elements enhanced; and 3) signs, decorative elements, and special education added. After agreeing to be in the study, the participants will be asked to find their way to certain places in their community four times over a year. Some people will be asked to participate in educational sessions on wayfinding. In addition, some people will be asked to wear a location tracker, (like a fitness tracker), for four weeks during the year. How well people find their way, along with how much they travel about within the communities, will be compared between the three groups. It is hypothesized that those in the communities with special signs and decorative elements will find their way more effectively than those in the control communities. It is also hypothesized that participants in the communities with the special education intervention will find their way better than those without the education. Finally, it is hypothesized that participants in the communities with signs and cues and education will travel about further distances than those in the control communities. The results of the study can help people who have a tendency to get lost find their way more effectively in their community, and this could result in more independence.

Detailed Study Description

The ability to locate and travel successfully to a destination, known as wayfinding, is a significant problem for older adults with cognitive disorders. Relocating to a new residence such as independent or assisted living is a time in which older adults with cognitive problems are most vulnerable to experiencing wayfinding problems. Often these communities are not designed to facilitate wayfinding as they are complex, confusing, and lack distinctiveness. Wayfinding problems can cause individuals' worlds to shrink, leading to a smaller life space (the spatial extent of travel within the community), decreased engagement, and dependence upon others for activities of daily living. The overall goal of the proposed project is to assess the contribution of salient visual cues and Spaced Retrieval (SR) on wayfinding ability and life space in older adults with wayfinding problems who live in senior communities. Salient cues, such as vivid pictures, statues and bright, distinctive signage can make senior residential communities more memorable and distinctive. This study has three specific aims: a) to examine the effect of salient cues with and without SR on wayfinding ability initially and over time in older adults who have wayfinding deficits in senior communities; and b) To determine the effects of salient visual cues and SR on life space; and c) to determine subject characteristics that are most amenable to the intervention; wand which subject characteristics place persons at risk for less responsiveness to the intervention so that the intervention can be appropriately targeted. There are three arms to the clinical trial to which nine care communities will be randomly assigned, including Arm 1 (control; no change to the care community); Arm 2 (colorful and familiar objects and signage placed within the care community); and Arm 3 (Arm 2 cues plus SR). Participants will be individuals within the communities who exhibit problems finding their way. They will be asked to find their way repeatedly to specific destinations over a period of a year. Wayfinding performance, including how fast the participants find the test location and the errors they make compared between study Arms. Life space will also be measured and compared between Arms. It is hypothesized that individuals who are in care communities which are enhanced with salient cues will improve wayfinding when compared to care communities without salient cues. In addition, Spaced Retrieval, which is an evidence-based memory strategy, is hypothesized to positively influence subjects' use of the cues and improve wayfinding performance. Finally, it is hypothesized that wayfinding ability will correlate with life space. The long term goals of this research are to test an evidence based intervention to enhance senior residences so that older adults who have wayfinding problems can more easily learn and remember their environments so that they can maintain independence.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03537729

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