Artwork for older people at Doncaster and Rotherham hospitals

Artwork aids memory and improves environment for older people with dementia

Nature scenes have been used to provoke memories at The Woodlands in Rotherham

Present-day local area pictures and iconic images from the past are being used to brighten wards and inspire memories in older people at hospitals in Doncaster and Rotherham.

The project is an innovative collaboration between New Vision Signs and Graphics and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH).

The images prompt older people with dementia to remember things from their past and create talking points for them and their families.

It’s very much about orientation for people, to make them feel familiar with where they are

The aim is to improve the care and environments in older people’s mental health inpatient services at Windermere Lodge in St Catherine’s, Doncaster; The Woodlands in Rotherham; and Laurel Ward in Scunthorpe.

Ward teams at each unit have been working with a project team to develop ideas and themes for the artwork and decoration.

Liz Copley, a consultant occupational therapist, said: “In Doncaster, the ward teams suggested artworks to help the patients with their sense of orientation and of ‘place’ and belonging, choosing the themes of Doncaster’s well-known market, and, of course, Doncaster Races - the famous St Leger in particular.

Public transport is another theme of the artwork

“Using beautiful photographs taken by local photographer, Richard Benson, and the New Vision system, the end result is stunning. Bright and vivid photographic sequences of the market, the St Leger, and other local landmarks now adorn the previously empty walls and are a real talking point.

“The unit has also been repainted and signage improved, both of which help patients with dementia find their way and understand their environment more easily, so helping them to stay as active and independent as possible. The use of colour to positively affect mood and wellbeing has also been an important feature of the work.”

New Vision, a Bradford-based company, has previously worked on a project at Bradford Royal Infirmary, providing systems for wall mounting and displaying images, and used similar techniques in Doncaster.

The use of colour to positively affect mood and wellbeing has been an important feature of the work

Copley said: “The system used in Bradford had the advantages of meeting all required standards of infection control and safety and also the images were easily interchangeable, so allowing for variation from time to time or for individual patient choice. Also, the system could be adapted for patient and staff notice and display boards.”

Photographer Benson, 61, added: “I live in Doncaster and I’ve got a lot of pictures of the town looking nice, rather than the grim Northern type of image. It sounded like an interesting project because my mother had dementia, so I knew what they were aiming for and why these pictures would help.”

Kim Gostolo, a health promotion lead nurse, said the pictures help patients feel familiar and give them things to talk about.

“Hopefully it gives people that sense of belonging,” she added. “It’s very much about orientation for people, to make them feel familiar with where they are. The images themselves become talking points and memory prompters, so people have conversations about things that they remember and places they might have visited or taken their children.”

In Rotherham, ward teams have chosen a number of different themes, including iconic images from the 1960s and 1970s and photographic murals of scenes of nature, which help bring a sense of calm and connection with the outdoors.

Two wards have been involved in the project - The Ferns, where people with dementia receive extended care; and The Glades, an assessment unit.

Alison North, practice development lead, said: “The staff wanted to choose images that would mean something for patients with dementia.”

In The Ferns spectacular images from years gone by now brighten the walls, including the first man landing on the moon, and the Beatles. In The Glades, there is a transport theme, with pictures of London buses, vintage cars, trams and aeroplanes.

The images themselves become talking points and memory prompters, so people have conversations about things that they remember and places they might have visited or taken their children

“These are things that will stimulate thought and conversation as people walk down these corridors,” said North.

“It’s about sparking a memory. Patients who are able to have conversations are saying how nice it is and they are talking about what kind of cars they drove and what age they were when they got their first car.”

Patients can now also have pictures in their own bedrooms, which can be changed around within the display units so they can be personalised depending on the patients’ pets or hobbies.

Stephen Duff, managing director of New Vision, said: “It has been a rewarding experience and we’re very happy with the results. The projects have benefited from the extensive research and groundwork we carried out at Bradford Royal Infirmary and we are delighted that early indications are pointing to a similar success.”

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