Creating Calm for Dementia Patients

Compassionate care for dementia patients requires insight and ingenuity. Not only are they in need of help, they often don’t know they need that help. 


“Imagine how scary their situation can be,” says Scott Aylwin, Senior Director of Operations, Mental Health. “If you don’t understand what’s happening around you, and not even why, it’s alarming. Anything we can do to soothe is a step in the right direction.”


Villa Caritas is an acute geriatric mental health facility in Edmonton. The unit that houses dementia patients has a special appliqué that covers the entire wall and, most importantly, its exit doors.


“Often we have ‘exit seeking’ patients, and it’s problematic to have a set of doors that appear available to them,” Aylwin says. “This covering essentially makes the doors disappear, so it creates a more comfortable environment.”


The wall used to look like a bookshelf, but Covenant Foundation provided funds for a new decal. It’s a vibrant nature scene, with lots of greenery and a view over a valley. Many patients at Villa Caritas have a rural background, and there is hope the scene evokes memories of happier days. 

“It’s difficult to measure the impact, but we often see residents sitting in front of it. We want an environment that’s calm and soothing, and it seems like this helps.”


Patients with dementia are a growing demographic, Aylwin says, and there is always discussion among professionals about how to provide the best care.


“For example, you can design a unit that’s circular, so they have a loop they can just walk, walk, walk,” he says, explaining that many people with dementia have a restless energy that keeps them on their feet. “Another simple but useful idea is to have a uniform floor, without pattern, because depth perception difficulties can cause patients to mistake patterns for steps. Many facilities are using different paint colour schemes to help patients remember where their rooms are. There are new ideas in this field all the time.”

In the meantime, this new exit door covering is creating comfort for patients and peace of mind for families and staff.