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Is simply removing items the best strategy for people living with dementia?

Posted on Fri 26th Oct, 2018 in: Dementia Friendly EnvironmentsDementia Friendly ProductsFear Of Reflection In Dementia

Reversible mirror


Don’t we have a responsibility to find an alternative rather than just take something away?


Often the everyday items that surround us can become inappropriate for people with dementia due to the risk of harm or the distress that they can cause. Obviously if this is the case then it wouldn’t be appropriate to ignore these items, knowing their effects could be detrimental in some way but is the best response always to just remove them?


It all depends on what those items are. If a person is liable to hurt themselves with scissors or kitchen knives then you would take them away, however if they wanted to engage in crafts or cooking activities then you would find them a safe alternative. We think it’s the same principle with mirrors.


Many people with dementia find their reflection difficult to deal with. If you imagine yourself to be much younger than your actual years, seeing an elderly person in a mirror would feel like looking at a stranger and that can be very frightening. When this happens, the most common response from dementia environments is to just take the mirrors away but is that a fair resolution for the person involved?


People with dementia benefit from stimulating environments, just as anyone else does. Completely sanitising their space, leaving them with bare walls hardly does that. That’s why we think a better solution is not to remove but to swap. A picture on the wall is a great alternative to a mirror in a bedroom or bathroom but you can’t just put any old picture up because many types of image are unsuitable for people with dementia: very busy images, use of perspective, the perception of peril etc should all be avoided so it becomes difficult for care homes and hospitals to manage.


That’s why we developed the Reversible Mirror. It’s a mirror on one side and a dementia friendly picture on the other. It sits inside an elegant frame so looks designed-in whichever side is displayed. It can be swapped around in seconds and offers flexibility for the needs of the occupant of the room. This allows those who want a mirror to keep one and those who may be distressed by one an equally decorative alternative, because a person with dementia doesn’t want to stare at a blank wall any more than anyone else does.


Sometimes, those with dementia are treated a bit like children and that’s not an appropriate way to act with our older people. We think it’s a better solution to ‘reverse’ than to ‘remove’.


You can see further information on Reversible Mirrors here.


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