The importance of creating calm and reassurance in a dementia care environment
And the measures we implement at Constantia to achieve it
Moving a loved one into residential care is a difficult and complex decision, especially if your family member is living with dementia. Dementia can affect how we respond to everyday things and it can be hard to settle and feel at home in a care environment if we don’t feel calm, reassured and safe. As well as taking care of a person’s physical needs, we understand that it is equally as vital to look after our residents’ emotional needs and mental health.
We actively work towards this goal across all that we do in our dementia environment at Roseleigh and approach it in a number of ways – from the environment itself, to engaging with our residents in their everyday activities.
The measures we take include the following:
Creating a homely environment
Nobody truly feels settled if they don’t feel at home. Care spaces can feel ‘institutional’ or clinical so we work very hard to make all our care homes feel homely. Roseleigh is decorated in light, soft shades to create an airy, welcoming ambience with comfortable soft furnishings and tasteful décor. Residents are encouraged to bring in personal belongings to make their own rooms feel comfortable and familiar.
Reminiscence and nostalgia can be used to great effect with people living with dementia. Short term memories are difficult to retain but many find that their long term memories are intact and of great comfort to them. Many will revert to a particular period of their lives, a term often referred to as a ‘memory bump’, which tends to be around the time they were in their 20s. This typically includes getting married, starting a family, embarking on the world of work etc. Talking about these memories can bring great happiness and can lead to increased engagement between the residents.
As well as encouraging people to recall these memories through activities, our home features memory boxes containing memorabilia, rummage boxes with old money and magazines and nostalgic pictures designed to spark conversations and stories.
Keeping people busy and entertained is a vital part of the care that we offer. Our activity coordinators work with residents to occupy them in fun activities, known to be of benefit to people with dementia, both in and outside the home environment.
The importance of wayfinding cannot be underestimated. Few things can make a person feel more unsettled than not being able to make sense of their surroundings and orient themselves in their home environment. Our signage throughout the home is dementia-friendly and uses images as well as text. We also employ other visual ‘cues’ to enable people to find their way around and locate their own space, such as photos of themselves on their doors, pictures in key areas and memory boxes.
Engaging with all the senses
The benefits of engaging with all senses in dementia are well documented. A memory triggered by a song or even a scent can be just as powerful as seeing a picture or a video from an old film archive. As well as carefully curated music playing in the home, we have sensory boards and a lovely garden area with brightly coloured flowers, plants and all the fragrances of the outdoors.
Something that we’re very aware of is understanding the ‘triggers’ that can create distress in a person with dementia. They can have very strong reactions to everyday things that someone not living with dementia wouldn’t think twice about. For example, fear of reflection is a big issue in dementia, due to people being unable to recognise themselves in a mirror. This can feel like there’s a stranger in their space. That’s why we have removed all mirrors from the home unless specifically requested in a private room.
Our pictures are all dementia-friendly, as many aspects of a picture or painting can be confusing or even distressing, such as not being able to make sense of very busy images or imagining peril in a scene. By removing the common triggers that can cause upset and lead to challenging behaviour, we can help residents maintain a feeling of level emotion.
Creating a calm and reassuring environment for our residents reduces distress and agitation and enables them to feel happy and safe. Not only does this benefit them, it’s a more positive space for other residents, the families of residents and our staff.
If you’re considering Roseleigh as a suitable home for your loved one and would like to talk to us in more detail about our approach to care please call us on 01642 656122 or send us a message.