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Considerations for chairs in psychiatric-geriatric units

May 9, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Laurie N. Placinski, IIDA, LEED AP, EDAC

While working on the renovation at Saint Mary’s Health Care (Grand Rapids, Mich.), the design team put much effort into choosing patient chairs. The unit, which accepts adult (18 to 50) psychiatric patients, caters to the geriatric population since the demographic data reflected such a case. The team worked to balance the safety requirements of adult psychiatric patients with the medical and comfort needs of geriatric patients. Key concerns included:

·        Ease of sitting down, standing up

·        Movable chair arms to enable side transfers or lifting

·        Foam density sufficient for comfortable support, without excessive “sinking in”

·        Upright seating position, with enough forward tilt to enable standing up

·        Comfort and warmth for longer periods

Because older patients chill more easily and are more prone to sore muscles, the team selected heat and massage recliners (Herman Miller). They felt that the chair’s therapeutic features were necessary for aging patients who might spend 4 or 5 hours per day in the activity space.

“It wasn’t just finding a rigid patient chair that was made out of foam, it was really taking the extra time to find something that not only was safe for a psychiatric population, but helpful to the geriatric psychiatric population,” explains Laurie N. Placinski, Interior Project Designer and Client Leader at Progressive AE.  She added that because aging patients tend to be weaker, chair designs must impact pressure points comfortably, and be equipped with a curved or “waterfall” front edge “so there’s not a sharp corner at the back of the legs that could cause numbness or nerve damage.”