A Tale of 5 Chairs

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“It’s never going to work. They are just going to keep moving the chairs back where they want them,” a Resident Assistant argued.

I had gone to another dementia care community to help them build Life Skills Stations (like a station for baby dolls, an office, a dress-up area, or other examples like these) but we had an issue. Residents kept pushing chairs into the hallway and blocking a lot of space, creating a safety hazard.

It was as though they were not sure where else to sit, but it also seemed like staff had given up the good fight. 

“They just move the chairs back there every single time. We put the chairs in the dining room, and the residents pull them out and line them up along the wall,” the staff member explained. “What’s the point in even trying to move the chairs?”

I understood what the staff was dealing with. It seemed like a waste of time to keep moving the chairs back into the dining room when all the residents wanted to do was sit in the hallway.

But what if we changed their environment? What if it looked completely different? Would the residents recall what had been there, and continue pushing the chairs into the hallway, creating a safety hazard?

I moved the chairs that had been along the wall. I found two small side tables and a nice piece of furniture with drawers and moved them to the space where the chairs had been. I put them against the wall and added some plants.

“Wow, that looks lovely,” a resident smiled, walking by. 

None of the residents pulled chairs out info the hallway again.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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