Fake Out Reality

Dealing with nursing home residents challenged with dementia is always a work in progress but some facilities are finding that going with the flow is easier – and much less frustrating – than trying to convince the resident that their reality isn’t real.

Beatitudes, a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, found that by installing a piece of rectangular shaped black carpet in front of the elevator on their dementia unit, residents hesitated to walk or
wheel on to it. Because of the visual-spatial problems associated with dementia, it’s believed the black carpet is perceived as a cliff or perhaps a hole. Of course the opposite problem exists when staff need to get the residents on to the elevator. Putting a white towel or sheet down over top of the black carpet the problem is solved.

In Germany fake bus stops have been installed outside of some nursing homes. Piloted at the Benrath Senior Centre in Dusseldorf, residents patiently wait for the mythical buses. Staff found that residents can be encouraged to come back inside with the offer of a coffee while they await the bus which is ‘coming later’ but whether they accept the coffee or not, eventually they forget where they wanted to go.

Facilities have long used the trick of painting exit doors to look like bookcases so that residents believe they are looking at a solid wall. Alternatively, painting large windows with beautiful outdoor scenes can lead residents to sit for hours gazing at flowers and birds.

Giving items such as dolls to dementia patients who have fond memories of raising children gives them purpose as they proceed to name the dolls and care for them as thought they were alive. The act of feeding the babies can encourage residents to eat a little more than they would do otherwise.

Bravo to the facilities that find ways to ease the frustrations of their dementia patients!