Dementia writer warns murals can be confusing and visually disturbing

A dementia writer has warned murals of street scenes can be visually disturbing and confusing to people with dementia.

Care homes across the UK are decorating their walls with various street scenes for their residents to great a sense of nostalgia.

The trend of 1950s high street shop fronts and quaint village scenes are sweeping the care sector due to companies believing they reduce stress and anxiety in residents.

Anna Park, care consultant, said: “I understand the idea of bringing reminiscence therapy to life with colourful, nostalgic murals but I think the scale, design and permanence of them are rarely dementia friendly with many commercial companies jumping on the bandwagon without an understanding of the main principles of good dementia design.”

Ms Park has concerns that the impact of these paintings can overpower a room and over stimulate the senses.

“Part of the problem is that reminiscence has become a growing trend and a buzzword without people necessarily understanding the purpose behind it.

“It is not about taking people back to a random view of a random decade and leaving them there. I wouldn’t want to feel I was daily stuck in a scene I couldn’t escape from,” said Ms Park.

Dementia can affect people’s vision as they can become less sensitive to differences in colour.

Wendy Mitchell, author of Alzheimer’s memoir ‘Somebody I used to know’ and living with early on-set dementia, said: “I really hate them. They are so confusing.

“What’s wrong with a nice painting or simply a window with a view? Why make us think we’re somewhere else?”

Although the murals are designed to trigger memories, Ms Mitchell said reminiscence is a dangerous subject unless carers or care providers know the person as they may want to forget a certain time in their lives.

She said: “Many don’t realise that a switched off large screen TV mounted on the wall looks like a hole in the wall, just like a black mat on the floor can look like a hole in the floor.

“For the kindest reasons, people think things will help when they simply confuse.”

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