Almost 15 years ago I was trying to do research for a dementia care renovation and was looking for information on dementia care stations. The company I worked for at the time called them ‘life skill stations’. When I googled that, only one article came up. I saw them in countless buildings, and communities all over the country were creating them, but no one was talking about them. How things have changed!
These ‘stations’ are called many things, including:
...the list goes on. Some companies have branded names for their stations. Regardless of what they are called, the idea behind them is pretty much the same: they are areas for an activity that reflect something familiar from a resident’s life such as a hobby, career, or routine. This month we’re sharing how to implement dementia care stations, and show some examples to provide ideas on how to create your own.
How to Create Dementia Care Stations
Throughout my years of senior living design, dementia care communities have been some of my favorite projects to work on. Admittedly, the start of the project is not always so great. My worst nightmare is to see all the residents lined up in front of the television. Residents with dementia are already in a state of discomfort, confusion, and anxiety. They need something to do, whether it be an organized group or individual activity. This is why I feel stations are important. Even in times where the staff is stretched to capacity and there is not an activities person available, it helps that the residents can interact with the stations on their own.
I always loved going back to finish renovations and set up the stations. I would often get residents coming over to touch items and tell me stories. Once, while I was setting up a vanity, I had a resident tell me how she used to go to Macy’s in New York City and buy pretty scarves like the ones we had hanging up. She was so happy talking about it! I met another woman who, according to caregivers, worked for years in the home section of a department store. She absolutely loved folding the towels in the laundry station. The station gave her a sense of purpose.
So how do you implement these senior living stations? Here are some frequently asked questions:
What types of stations should we create? Create stations based on the residents’ backgrounds, such as careers, hobbies, and routines. Also, keep in mind the surrounding area. Are you in a farming community? A medical hub? A lake community? You are trying to create areas where residents can interact with familiar things, so find out what familiar means to them. It is also good to have a mixture of senior living stations that appeal to all residents.
Where do we locate them? Locate stations in a part of the community that makes sense in relation to the station subject matter. A vanity could be located in or near the salon or spa. A desk could be set up near offices or in a library. A gardening station would be best near windows overlooking a courtyard or in the courtyard (if access is possible). If there is not space in a common area, alcoves or sitting areas in corridors are another great option. For more calming stations like sensory or baby stations, locate in a quiet area of the community to limit noise and disruption. If you have a small community with limited available floor space, hang themed artwork and some flatter items on the wall (keep in mind ADA requirements for corridors).
What goes into a station? Typically you want some sort of furniture to ground the station. A vanity can work for dressing up or a wedding theme. A desk can house a variety of careers like secretary, salesperson, teacher, or lawyer. Areas in some communities are already set up to use as a station, like a smaller kitchen area (not the main kitchen) or the spa. Install artwork that relates to your theme in close proximity as a visual cue. Lastly, stock with safe, related items.
But won’t everything get wrecked or disappear? Many times while I have been setting up, someone in the community will comment on how the station won’t stay ‘nice’ for very long. Senior living stations are not meant to be picture-perfect art installations, they are for an activity. Like any activity, sometimes things are used and need to be replaced. Create a list of items in each station and/or take a picture of the completed product. Keep lists and images in close proximity or in an office. This helps night staff to return items from common areas and residents’ rooms back to the correct station (and helps curb theft internally).
How do we maintain stations? Check often for cleanliness. Look through drawers, baskets, and cabinets consistently to make sure they are not becoming hiding places for food or other unwanted items. Make sure cloth items (baby clothes and blankets, scarves from vanity, aprons, and towels in the kitchen) are laundered on a regular schedule. Straighten and sort items as needed. As mentioned above, use your lists to take inventory regularly and keep stations stocked.
Looking for More Tips on Dementia Care Station Creation?
The great thing about senior living and dementia care stations is that there is so much room for creativity and customization. In our next blog post, we will show you some example stations we set up, and how you might be able to use the ideas in your community.
Have questions or something you want us to cover? Contact us here and let us know!