Is a Private Room Really in a Resident’s Best Interest?

I have spent my years in dementia care as an advocate for seeking and providing environments and care that is tailored to each individual person, regardless of what the public or industry believes to be best. For years there has been a debate about private versus shared rooms. Although a shared room philosophy seems to go against the grain, in my 25 years I have witnessed many benefits to shared rooms for those with memory loss.

I was pleased to read Dr. Jeffrey Nichols article in Caring for the Ages, entitled “Private Rooms Not Always a Better Place for Residents.” Dr. Nichols provides a wonderful summary on the many advantages of shared rooms for those with cognitive impairment – and as he states, a great number of residents in long-term care do have cognitive impairment.

Shared rooms can encourage friendships, provide companionship, a sense of security and additional cuing and prompting – one person supporting the other. And ideally we want residents to be out and about, spending time with others, at mealtime, socializing with others and participating in activities and events throughout the day. When carefully evaluating and selecting individuals who will share a room – considering each person’s needs – the benefits will be evident and witnessed in their behavior and happiness.

Private rooms are appealing to us and families, and are often thought to be critical for a “person-centered” environment. However, person-centered to us is doing what is right for each individual person we serve, providing what they want and need, not what we want or think they should have.

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