Practical tips for working in care homes

18 May 2023

Andrew Cleaver, National Sector Manager at Dulux, offers his advice on how to deliver the best results when decorating in care environments 

With over 17,000 care homes in the UK1, there is currently huge demand and opportunity for decorators looking to work in this booming sector. According to studies by building and construction market researchers AMA, “the demand for additional capacity within the care home market is likely to start rising again within the next couple of years. Covid-19 is likely to drive the growth in demand for larger and better-equipped care homes.” 

In addition, “the pipeline for future development remains relatively strong – especially in parts of the UK such as the South East – while the next few years are expected to witness a growth in the number of alternatives to care homes, such as extra care facilities and retirement villages2.”

Working in care homes can be incredibly rewarding, but comes with some unique challenges. Knowing how to tackle the difficulties of working in a live environment – and learning to expect the unexpected – is key to a successful care home project, says Andrew Cleaver, National Sector Manager at Dulux. In this article, he explains how to best present and organise yourself to ensure each day on the job is handled with utmost professionalism. 

Communication is key 

Every care home is different – not just in terms of layout and format, but also the residents it looks after. Regular communication between the decorator and care home staff is crucial during the planning stages of a project through to the application to ensure everything stays on track. It is also important to understand the needs of the staff and residents to keep disruption to a minimum. For example, letting staff know which rooms will be out of action enables them to plan ahead and ensure the residents are relocated somewhere else for the day. 

Decorators should also plan deliveries with suppliers to ensure staff and emergency services can access the car park. It is often difficult to store materials on site so smaller, more regular deliveries should be organised. 

All in the presentation 

Care home residents can be unpredictable, so it is important to keep the work area as tidy as possible. Leaving tools and materials unattended can be hazardous to both staff and residents. It is therefore crucial that everything is packed away at the end of the workday – and the additional set-up and set-down times factored into project timelines.

The way decorators present themselves is also key. It is important to bear in mind that you are entering someone’s home, so arriving to the job in clean overalls shows respect for the people they are working amongst. 

In addition, wearing hi-vis jackets could be alarming for some residents – for example, those with dementia may be confused as to what this indicates. 

Adding colour to residents’ lives 

In UK care homes, 70% of residents are thought to have dementia[1] so offering customers advice about colour schemes and how to decorate with their residents in mind is worthwhile. For decorators in need of support, Dulux Trade – alongside the British Research Establishment – created a Dementia Friendly Colour Palette. This helpful asset provides decorators and their customers with a range of colours to choose from when working in dementia care settings. It has been devised through years of experience in design and a wealth of dementia knowledge. They recommend: 

  • Using soft, calm tones for main walls. Only small hints of colour should be introduced, and more saturated colours should be used on feature walls for highlighting obstacles such as pillars, handrails and radiators, while also aiding in wayfinding. 
  • Critical surfaces – such as walls, floors and doors – should be defined and have contrast between them. A minimum of 30 points of Light Reflectance Value is recommended. To make doors obvious against neutral walls, use bold hues such as navies, sage greens and burgundies. 
  • Staff areas and supply cupboards should be painted in the same colour as the walls so that they blend in, helping to avoid unauthorised access.

As well as choosing the right paint colours for care homes, the right product should also be considered. Dulux Trade Scuffshield contains the ultimate scuff-resistant technology for high traffic areas such as corridors, stairwells and hallways, while Dulux Trade Diamond Matt includes stain-repellent technology ideal for settings that often need cleaning. On the other hand,  Dulux Trade Sterishield Diamond Matt and Dual Active Matt contain additives that reduce populations of harmful bacteria – key for environments where vulnerable people are being looked after. 

Working in healthcare settings – especially those offering dementia care – present their own set of requirements. For further advice and more information about the Dulux Trade Dementia Friendly Colour Palette, please visit Advice OCCD Hub | (