Home-Like Environment

What does a home-like environment feel like to you? What would be the smell of it? What would it look like? Would a pink flamingo feel right in the front yard or wrong? Would the smell of Pine-Sol make you feel safe or not? These may seem like random and bizarre questions but they matter. As I used the Gerdner & Beck Dementia Special Care criteria scale in my study of End of Life care for people with dementia, I was often stumped when assessing if the dementia unit had a “home-like environment”. I was even more stumped when I applied the assessment to the overall nursing home.

As I look back on my assessments, it boiled down to a few key sensory features: clean scent (non-Pine), bright non-glaring halls and rooms, wood tones, smiling, friendly staff. These were not outlined criteria outlined but my own hard-wired ideal. Sensory satisfaction relies on memory and nurture. My life experience had built for me a cadre of both positive and negative sensory environmental features. My mother’s repeated statement that public restrooms with pine scent were not clean, but masking clean. My early childhood bedroom with multiple windows and light. The visual safety felt from childhood homes with hardwood floors, and wood framed vacation cabins added to my personal measure of home-like. My thirst for acceptance was validated by smiling, friendly staff.

Home is where the heart is. The good and the bad news is, we don’t all have the same sensory memories of home. When applying this to good long-term care environments, individual preferences matter. Notice now what pleases your eyes, your ears, your touch, your taste, your smell, and your soul. Share these reflections with loved ones. As a loved one, take note of the sensory satisfactions of your family member. Just as we thoughtfully choose a present for an individual’s future birthday, one day we can thoughtfully choose a care environment. Take note of the present joy to be used to diminish future trials.

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

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