Diversion doors are preventing exit-seeking behaviours at Garden Terrace

Bookshelf murals on 3 doors are having a positive impact, say staff and families

Since three “diversion doors” were painted at Garden Terrace 16 months ago, agitation caused by exit-seeking has been reduced in residents with cognitive impairment who are living at the Ottawa-area long-term care home, say staff members.

People living with dementia often look for doors. This is called “exit-seeking,” and it can create safety issues as well as agitation for people. But if a door looks like a bookshelf filled with books and other familiar items, people with cognitive impairment will pass it by and not try to exit.

In March 2017, multimedia artist Andréa Fabricius was commissioned to paint three diversion doors in Garden Terrace’s secure neighbourhoods for people living with dementia. Each door is painted with a different bookshelf design. The items painted on each bookshelf mural are things familiar to residents living in that area.

“It was important to create an image that resembled a scene from the residents’ home and memories to contribute to the familiarity of furniture that is in one’s home, alleviating the residents’ anxiety of wanting to exit through the door,” Andréa says.

“Diversion door murals have been known to improve the health and well-being of residents with forms of dementia by decreasing the anxiety from exit-seeking behaviours. The murals help redirect the resident from the door to another activity or environment. The diversions also create a less tense environment for family and staff who are entering and exiting the unit.”

Residents’ families are noticing the results, says Garden Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator Sylvia Monette.

“We have a family member who takes their mother out every Thursday, and they commented to me: ‘my mom is no longer easy to get out since you painted the door like this; it’s like she no longer thinks it’s a doorway,’ ” Sylvia says.

– More to come

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