Creating dementia-friendly environments using murals

Hengoed Care in South Wales introduced several changes including murals to enhance the dementia environment for its residents.

Set in the beautiful Welsh hills, Hengoed Care is always looking for ways to improve the environment for better dementia care. Working with Find Memory Care some exciting additions to the home have been achieved.

Hengoed Care’s manager Nicola first met Karen from Find at the University of Swansea. Following on from the meeting, Karen was invited to Hengoed to meet with Nicola and their dementia lead Lesley to discuss the possibilities for the home.

We asked Karen to tell us about the changes and what has been done to benefit the residents.

What did the team at Hengoed want to achieve?

Nicola wanted the interior to be designed to offer residents a variety of destination areas. This would encourage residents to be more independent and confident, ultimately resulting in a better quality of life for everyone.

A key focus for the changes was to reduce agitation and distress levels in residents. We agreed that if we could successfully achieve this, there would be several positive outcomes, including better levels of hydration and nutrition, improved interaction and social engagement.

What changes have been implemented? 

To enhance the existing bar area, we have installed murals to create a beer garden, giving residents a place to relax and have a drink. The mural also works as an orientation aid, enabling people to locate the area.

A previously unused storage room has been converted into a Post Office. The traditional design works fantastically as an orientation aid as it is located outside one of the lounges. The interior of the Post Office has been designed for activities such as letter writing. The post box is used for posting a full range of mail items, including Birthday and Christmas cards.

A short wall space from the lounge leading to the main corridor has been designed to include an outdoor space, which leads residents nicely to the Post Office and shopping area.

Along from the Post Office, instead of a magnolia walled corridor, we have created a street scene, including a bus stop and flower shop.

One of the lounges has been separated into two different areas to help residents understand the purpose of the room. One side keeping its original feeling of being a lounge and the other a designated dining space.

Finally, the main dining room has been transformed from another magnolia space into a cafe area, along with a further flower shop. This can act as a lovely distraction area for residents to use in between meals.

At the same time, we felt it was important to improve the signage for the toilet areas. It was hoped residents would spend more time walking and exercising so would need to locate facilities easily to prevent incontinence episodes. Blue Toliet seats were also installed to aid independence.

A quote was submitted for consideration within a few days of our visit and the designs were approved within weeks of order confirmation. Installation took place as soon as the murals were completed – and positive change was recognised immediately.

As this was a large project, Find offered interest-free payment terms over three months.

Lesley, Hengoed’s Dementia Lead commented,  “The Bus Stop is proving more and more successful as a method of distraction for residents who may become agitated and ‘want to go home’. We have placed a bench at the Bus Stop and it has become known as the buddy bench because it encourages engagement and reminiscing with residents. This helps to reduce their agitation/frustration levels and the staff is soon able to leave the resident to ‘wait for their bus’. Whilst doing this, they may doze off, or engage with the reading material about Swansea, which we have placed on a small table at the bus shelter, and soon forget about ‘going home’.

Before the changes, one resident was agitated every morning looking for the Post Office. Since the Post Office has become part of the home, the resident visits the Post Office every morning. This simple task has a positive impact on her mood for the rest of the day.

The window murals, with flower holders and brightly coloured flowers, provide residents who like to walk along the corridors with areas of interest where they can stop and browse. Many ‘pick’ the flowers and take them into the lounges or to their rooms. Staff notice when the flowers have been ‘picked’ and have an excellent way of engaging with residents to help them tidy the gardens and plant new flowers – those gathered from the lounges and rooms being returned to the displays for the next time.

The murals in the lounge areas provide distraction techniques, which staff can use to get residents to move from one part of the lounge to another by talking about the shapes, colours and displays. Once more, these can be developed into reminiscence chats with individual residents, or with a group of residents who may wish to join in.

The dark blue toilet seats have helped residents to always open the lid of the toilets, should they be closed, and avoid them having any accidents.

The additions to the home have added colour into the lives of the residents, let them connect to who they were before and helped them to engage with their surroundings and each other”

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