Black Holes

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Linda reached her hand out, trying to catch the elevator door as it closed. 

“Hang on, Linda!” I called out. 

“What!” she yelled back at me. “I’m just trying to go downstairs!”

We were having an issue with our residents attempting to go downstairs in the elevator. This normally would not be an issue, but when you work in dementia care…it is. We could not let our residents leave the floor without an aide or family member.

Some of the residents, like Linda, took to hovering near the elevator. When visitors left the elevator after coming upstairs, they tended to walk away without checking to make sure that the door closed. We took a few precautions to prevent residents from leaving the floor unattended, but the most clever of precautions came from our Health Director.

“I put black mats in front of the two elevator doors on the Memory Care floor,” she emailed.

It didn’t need an explanation, because I realized immediately why she had done that. People with dementia have trouble distinguishing between patterns and colors, especially if these patterns or colors are on the floor. For people with dementia, black rugs or carpets tend to get mistaken for holes in the floor. When residents looked at the black mats near the elevators, they saw holes that they did not want to cross. It was genius.

“Woah, watch out for that!” Linda yelled out as someone walked off the elevator, pointing to the mat.

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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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