Kelly Pettus, the facility manager at Mt. Cartier Court, a long-term dementia care home in Revelstoke, B.C., was searching online for ways to make doors look like bookshelves to keep dementia patients from wandering outside without supervision when she ran across a solution to another problem she hadn’t realized was even an issue.
True Doors, which Pettus found on Pinterest, is a Dutch company started by an art student who wanted to add a creative flair to her apartment door. So she invented a door decal that goes on a plain flat door and gives the photographic appearance of a more decorative door.
When Pettus found True Doors, she knew she was onto something. It’s so easy to get lost in a big building where all the doors are the same color, even for people who don’t have memory problems. How much more difficult this life of identical doors must be for the patients!
“All of our doors are the same, so it makes sense — how can you expect someone living with dementia to differentiate one beige door from the next beige door?” mused Pettus.
Pettus brought up the idea to put up a different door decal for each patient’s door, enabling them to remember how to “get home” to their rooms and avoid becoming disoriented.
“I think when you’re in a hallway of beige doors, it can be scary,” she said. “You don’t know which door is yours, you don’t feel comfortable, and [some] people wander into different rooms, and that can be dangerous.”
Other staff members agreed with Pettus, so Revelstoke Hospital Auxiliary Society covered the $6,500 cost of 44 door decals for all of the residents. Everyone was excited to see what the doors would look like after the big transformation.
“We had a traffic jam of wheelchairs and walkers because everyone was so excited to come and see how the doors were going to turn out,” said Pettus.
Each door decal costs $150. Customers have the choice of 500 designs, or they can submit a photo of a real door for a custom decal. And so far, the residents and staff members have had only good things to say about the way the new doors look in what was once a drab and colorless hallway.
“They look like real doors. We have wood doors, we have wrought iron doors, we have one door that looks like a gate to a garden, we have some doors with stained glass,” said Pettus.
She believes the long-term care facility has already seen the door decals working in their favor and helping residents.
“We’ve had a resident say ‘I’m confused, I’m not sure where to go, but I know my door is blue,'” recalls Pettus.
The True Doors decals have also given residents a sense of pride. Patients now enjoy visiting each other and taking friends and family members on tours of all the doors.
“Everyone’s super keen. I’m getting emails daily about our doors, and who to contact, and how we did it, so I think we’ve sparked something here.”
Check out the video below to learn more about True Doors and how these decals are helping elderly people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia navigate the disorienting world of nursing homes and other care facilities.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?