Few storied characters epitomize the longing for home than that of Dorothy in the iconic movie ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Blown to ‘Oz’ by a prairie twister, Dorothy’s struggle to get back home takes her on a frightening journey.
At the end of her adventures Dorothy is told to click her heels three times while repeating the phrase, ‘There’s no place like home.’ She does so, and is transported back to her beloved home in Kansas, where all is well again.
When the circumstances of life dictate that someone must leave the familiar surroundings of home for a senior care facility, they may find themselves feeling more like Dorothy than not.
Unfamiliar surroundings, strange people and even someone else’s cooking can make the transition difficult – if not miserable.
That’s why more and more senior care facilities are adding special touches to their centers to make them look, feel, taste and even smell like home. Not only do these special touches make senior care facilities more welcoming, they help ease the transition for seniors during one of the most difficult seasons of life.
Here are five techniques senior care facilities are using to make their centers feel more like home.
One of the newest trends in senior care facilities is to build or renovate centers to look and feel more like home.
Two notable examples are ‘Lantern of Chagrin Valley’ in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and ‘The Green House’ a project now operating in 27 states.
Lantern of Chagrin Valley was designed for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Reminiscent of a small town in the 1930’s and 40’s, the interior courtyards and corridors look like small houses with front porches. Paint colors were chosen to reflect the popular colors of that time and the ceilings contains fiber optics that mimic the outdoors. Even the floor is painted green to give the illusion of grass and one can hear birds chirping in the distance. Completing the illusion: artificial plants in the common areas and porch lights shining at night.
The Green House concept features a 7,000 square-foot space with 10-12 private bedrooms, each with its own private bath, arranged around a communal living area featuring couches, a fireplace, aquarium, art-adorned walls and a full kitchen and dining room.
The Leonard Florence Center for Living has 10 Green Houses, two on each floor. Entrances feature colorful siding, a mailbox and real doors. Residents can take the elevator to the main lobby and enjoy the coffee shop and deli, attend chapel, and can even get their hair and nails done.
Of course, not all senior care facilities are able to renovate or build their space to emulate The Lantern or Green House concepts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do other things to update their environments to make them more like home.
One easy fix is to update common visiting areas. Contemporary interior designs, paint finishes, furniture and rugs help make centers feel more like home. These areas are great places for family members and friends to visit seniors but also serve as visual reminders of home.
Like hospital food, meals provided in senior care facilities can be bland and predictable. But more and more facilities are paying special attention to meal preferences. This not only encourages patients toward better nutrition but makes their lives more enjoyable.
To improve the meal experience, senior care facilities are:
Pets have long been used therapeutically in hospitals, rehab centers and other healthcare settings. Senior care facilities have found that roaming cats and chirping parakeets in their centers not only have a calming and soothing effect on patients but can also make their centers feel warmer and less institutional.
With new cold-infusion scent distribution systems, senior care facility owners and managers now have the power to create a more inviting atmosphere for their residents, guests and staff.
These state-of-the-art systems atomize essential oils, converting them into invisible molecules and dispersing them through common areas. Specific essential oils are chosen to achieve certain effects. For example, the scent of lavender relaxes, citrus energizes, and cinnamon promotes focus and a sense of purpose.
Scent can also enhance mood. Due to the inherent factors of aging, senior care facility residents often experience negative emotions such as anxiety and agitation as well as physical challenges such as poor appetite, memory loss, and insomnia. Scent can serve to function as a sort of ongoing ‘clinical aromatherapy’, helping to calm residents, encourage healthy behaviors and even recall pleasant memories.
For example, while recent memory may be impaired in Alzheimer residents, a specific scent may bring back memories of events and emotions locked away for years. These scents can range from baked goods and barbeque to flowers and fresh air.
When seniors are forced to leave their homes due to failing health, it can be traumatic and even depressing. Senior care facilities that work to make their centers look and feel more like home help seniors live out their final years with more joy, dignity and a higher quality of life.