There’s a lot going on within the walls of this secure dementia unit in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs.
There vibrancy of colour, the feel of community, and the streetscape scenery have transformed what was once a plain white area for residents living with dementia into a buzzing hive of activity that is delighting residents, family members and staff alike.
Fondly referred to as the memory support unit, the once plain walls are now adorned with a variety of high-quality decals that display imagery from the younger years of the residents who now call this secure dementia unit home.
Alan Bouchereau, Facility Manager at Regis Aged Care in Cranbourne, spoke with HelloCare and outlined both the reasoning and the amazing impact that the colourful space has had.
“The idea came after we noticed that we could be doing more to create an appealing atmosphere for our residents who are living with dementia,” said Alan.
“Previously, things looked fairly plain like the average aged care setting but we decided that injecting some colour into the area would really benefit our residents, and the response has been overwhelming from everyone, which speaks to the ever-changing world of dementia care.”
According to Alan, this was not the first attempt at enhancing the living area for residents from with the Lavender Unit, but rather a progression that entailed some trial and error that eventuated into the units vibrant current form.
“We looked at different designs and we previously tried some coloured doors but ended up feeling that they weren’t necessarily age-appropriate, that’s why we went down the path of the older wooden doors, because these are the type of doors that our residents would have seen years ago on their own houses,” said Alan.
Kimberley Treloar, who is the Lifestyle Coordinator at Regis Aged Care in Cranbourne, echoed Alan’s thoughts on the response from staff and residents, but also highlighted that improvements to the living area have always been a priority and that they will also continue to evolve.
“We are looking at doing more in our lavender unit, we have flowers and plant life around the nurse’s station and a lovely bright courtyard that looks very inviting for our residents and encourages them to go outside,” said Kimberley.
One of the problems faced by many older Australians in aged care settings is the feeling of losing identity.
As people grow older and begin to succumb to age-related issues, there is often a lack of available options and choices that can be made which can shape the way that a person lives, and ultimately the way in which they see themselves.
And while a personalised door may initially appear to be simple decoration, the fact that residents now have their own distinguishable entry to their room goes a long way to enforcing the fact that residents are individuals, each with their own important backstories and needs.
The unit was mostly white before, and even though we did have bright colours on the doors we wanted to make it more like an outdoor setting so it feels more inviting and gives the impression of coming from the outside into a home,” said Kimberley.
“Residents now have doors that they recognise as their own, which gives a sense of each resident being an individual.”
There are also a number of other decorations throughout the unit, including white picket fences that were a staple of many neighborhoods from yesteryear, as well as the addition of a number shop front decals that cover the many doors within the facility and add to the community atmosphere.
General utility rooms from within the unit now appear as things like the General Store, Coffee Shop, Haberdashery, and vintage Phone Box, which enhances the look and feel of the space.
“The picket fencing was designed because these were the fences from years ago, which resonated with residents.”
One of the most amazing aspects of the transformation is the commitment from those within the facility to give back, with one staff member even going to the great length of working from home to build miniature rooftops that hang above the doors which helped to complete the outdoor look and feel.
“There are even little rooftops that were built over the top of the doors, and they were actually built by our maintenance officer ‘Baz’ who is a carpenter by trade, and he took the time to build these at home for our residents,” said Alan.
“People in aged care need to love what they do, and I can’t speak highly enough of the effort to go and build these things for people from home, and the same goes for the rest of the team. ”