Have you ever traveled and checked into a hotel? I had to go to Toronto for a seminar years ago. I got off the plane and followed the directions and the crowd to the baggage area. Signage helped me locate the correct turnstile, I kept an eye out for my bags. Colour and a distinguishing feature helped me recognize them coming down the chute, I grabbed them and was on my way to find a taxi to take me to the hotel. This was the first time in Toronto and I relied on the cab driver to safely bring me to the hotel in the most efficient and direct route. I trusted him to do his job and he did. I was happy and felt cared for.
At the hotel, there were more cues and signs that helped me understand where I needed to go and get the help I needed. The lady at the desk asked me a series of questions and my answers gave her the information she needed to give me back what I wanted- a nice, comfortable, secure room. She did her job. I was happy and felt cared for.
Signage, processes and invested people who are ready and willing to step into service to assist, all work together as a system to help individuals get want they want. In this case, it was my bags, a ride and a room. When systems are not in place or they are unreliable, then the process can cause upset, frustration and even panic.
Change in general, even in the slightest of ways, demands more from a person- more concentration, a higher level of listening and a greater ability to process information. Step into the shoes of a person who has just moved into an assisted care facility. A new space, sights, sounds and faces to take in. The individual may be wrestling internally with perceived expectations of others who are new to their world. People like other residents who may be confused or who require support in ways different to the individual.
This is where little cues can be a big help. Aside from the standard and expected signage to help navigate a new resident to the dining room or activity room, and the uniform colors worn by staff to differentiate their roles, there are lots of opportunities to create and include other cues specific to the individual’s needs. In a hallway with many doors, a family can decorate their loved one’s door specific highlighting what makes that individual special. (Remember when we discussed the importance of knowing & understanding one’s “life story”?) Perhaps it is an ornamental dog that sits on the floor by her door. She can see it farther down the hall and associates it with her room. Perhaps she enjoyed painting. Displaying one of her paintings- like the one of a barn and horse from where she raised her family, will create the recognition as well as a chance to reminisce. These are a couple of examples that fulfill a helpful role. Repeatedly it reinforces: “This is my room.” or “I used to live on a farm and we had horses.” or “I love colors and painting.” These all contribute to the feelings of comfort and security. Like me in Toronto- feeling happy and cared for.