Every Picture Tells a Story

By Mathew Faulkner and Jo Lloyd, www.care-theme.co.uk

It’s commonplace to hang pictures in residents’ rooms or common areas in care homes to help people feel more at home. But it goes deeper than that. Care homes seek to improve residents’ general well- being, which might be measured by how comfortable, happy, settled, engaged and relaxed they feel. No matter what our state of our cogni- tive decline, there’s a science behind our innate need to feel:

• safe and secure,
• oriented in our surroundings,
• to be sociable
• to have control over our environment.

Simple décor techniques help to achieve this.

You could take a favourite image and cover an entire wall with it. If it were a local landmark familiar to residents that could help turn blank walls into reminiscence areas, engaging residents in conversational memories. An image could be used to brighten up an unloved corridor, perhaps giving residents somewhere to aim for when lost or confused, a point they can recognise and sit by to feel at home and safe. Garden rooms can be created in indoor spaces where imagery is combined with a living wall with vertical planting, engaging tall he senses for those residents un able to go outside safely and easily.

By thinking about spaces differently and utilising some clever design, printed material can transform a care home environment for the better, quickly, economically and creatively. The sheer range of materials available presents extraordinary opportunities.

There’s pasted wallpaper to redecorate with a core theme in mind. Perhaps patterns from the 60s or 70s would recreate familiarity with an era that residents remember fondly. Combine décor with music from that time for even greater effect.

Or easily removable, self-adhesive, vinyls that are quick to put up, and easy to remove leaving no residue, the wall is ready for the next resident. Vinyls can also brighten the look and feel of doors and corri- dors and help with navigation.

If there’s no room for a potted plant on the corner of a corridor then print one to give dementia patients landmarks where they know to turn left or right.

Use magnetic materials to create memory trees where photos of loved ones can be affixed together with tactile kitchen magnets. Print maps of the world to engage them in stories of places they have visited, or highlight where children and grandchildren reside.

Imagery is invaluable when creating quiet spaces for reflection and relaxation. Ablecare Homes sought to do this with their entrance corridor in Crossley House Care Home in Winterbourne. Many residents hailed from the Weston-super-Mare area, where the beach and pier are familiar landmarks. An image of the pier was recreated on an entire wall, with blue skies continuing the theme around the top of the surrounding walls. By adding gull mobiles, they created an engaging and different feel to the space. Sam Hawker of Ablecare commented: “The murals have transformed our entrance, which now has a lovely seaside feel and is somewhere residents like to sit and interact. Staff have really engaged with our project and it has been the catalyst for many other activities, like creating a seaside magnet wall and seaside artwork.”

Tudor Cottage Care Home in Axminster made more of its dining room, by printing a wallpaper for one wall with a picture of a quaint English tearoom. Residents can now imagine they’re sitting outside ‘Suzie’s Tea Room’ when dining. Manager Mandy Larcombe said: “The impact on the residents has been wonderful. We use the space to have afternoon tea with vintage cups and saucers.”

Advancements in printing technology have come thick and fast over the last decade. By paying attention to the space available and using images creatively, it’s possible for care homes to simply and quickly make something of any space. Combine the science of wellbeing, cre- ative flair and the latest print technology ands it’s a recipe for contented and happy residents.

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