A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that brightening lights in dementia facilities decreased depression, cognitive deterioration and loss of functional abilities. Increased light bolsters circadian rhythms and helps patients see better so they can be more active, said Elizabeth C. Brawley, a dementia care design expert not involved in the study, adding, ‘If I could change one thing in these places it would be the lighting.’

Several German nursing homes have fake bus stops outside to keep patients from wandering; they wait for nonexistent buses until they forget where they wanted to go, or agree to come inside.

And Beatitudes installed a rectangle of black carpet in front of the dementia unit’s fourth-floor elevators because residents appear to interpret it as a cliff or hole, no longer darting into elevators and wandering away. ‘They’ll walk right along the edge but don’t want to step in the black,’ said Ms. Alonzo, who finds it less unsettling than methods some facilities use, bracelets that trigger alarms when residents exit. ‘People with dementia have visual-spatial problems. We’ve actually had some people so wary of it that when we have to get them on the elevator to take them somewhere, we put down a white towel or something to cover it up.’