“What do people think about having tidy lounges? I try to keep things out but the cleaner always tidies things away? What do you think?”
One of our trainers, Helen Johns, replies: “It’s lovely that your colleague (the cleaner) is so diligent in their work, but this may not be very helpful for your residents. In our own homes we might imagine living with modern, clean, sleek lines but this isn’t ideal when someone is living with dementia. It is important that care home teams help residents to feel relaxed in their surroundings, and one of the ways to do this is by creating a homely, comfortable, stimulating environment.
When staff attempt to tidy things away, they might first want to consider: ‘How are people supported to access things that might stimulate them?’ If we take things away – what is there to look at? What is there to do? What is there to explore? What can I hear? What is there to touch, smell or taste?
Controlling and limiting the times that people can access stimulating resources is unhelpful and can increase the levels of boredom and anxiety in homes.
People need to be supported to engage and explore their surroundings at their own pace and in their own way, and having everything hidden away in cupboards, boxes and storage areas doesn’t help. Controlling and limiting the times that people can access stimulating resources is unhelpful and can increase the levels of boredom and anxiety in homes.
A home that has lots to look at on the walls and around the corridors provides opportunities for people to engage with their surroundings. A cabinet that has a few well chosen items left out may well stimulate someone’s curiosity about those objects and start an interesting discussion.
A rack filled with interesting, appropriate magazines and newspapers can help people to maintain reading skills for as long as possible. Sometimes the photos rather than the written text will be a useful way to stimulate conversation between residents or residents and staff. Be sure to weed out any magazines which include those ‘horror headlines’ which seem to have crept into our newsagents. The Daily Sparkle News is a great way to ensure that we avoid gruesome news, and it is nice to mix this with other publications.
A counter top with a bowl of fruit or fruit segments readily available may prompt someone to have a snack. Equally, a jug of squash or juice may remind someone that they are thirsty and temp them to quench their thirst. This is especially important for those who may not easily recognise or be able to communicate their thirst or hunger. The same principles can be applied to resident’s own rooms as well as the communal areas.
To help you get started, think about the different areas of your home. Walk around those areas and consider: Is this an overly neat and tidy area? If so – who for? Does this area support people to exercise choice and control as they go about their day? Does it encourage curiosity, occupation and enjoyment of life? If not, start making the list of things you would like to include in that area and work towards creating stimulating, interesting care home spaces.