Memory Care Stations Series

Almost 10 years ago I was trying to do research for a memory care renovation, and was looking for information on memory care stations. The company I was working for at the time called them ‘life skill stations’, so I Googled that. Exactly 1 article came up. I had seen them in countless buildings. Communities all over the country were creating them, but no one was talking about them. How things have changed! These ‘stations’ have been called many things-life stations, reminiscence stations, memory stations, activity stations, the list goes on. Some companies even have branded names for their stations. Regardless of what they are called, the idea behind them is pretty much the same: they are areas for activity that reflect something familiar from a resident’s life such as a hobby, career, or routine. This month we’re going to be talking about how to implement them, as well as show some examples and give you ideas on how to create your own.

Throughout my years of senior living design, memory care communities have been some of my favorite projects to work on. Admittedly, the start of the project is not always so great. My worst nightmare is to see all the residents lined up in front of the television. Memory care residents are already in a state of discomfort, confusion, and anxiety. They need something to do, whether it be an organized group or individual activity. This is why I have always felt the stations were so important. Even in times where the staff is stretched and there is not an activities person available, it helps that the residents can interact with the stations on their own.

I always loved going back to finish renovations and set up the stations. I would often get residents coming over, touching items or telling me stories. Once while I was setting up a vanity, I had a resident tell me how she used to go to Macy’s in New York City and buy pretty scarves like the ones we had hanging up. She was so happy talking about it! I met another woman who, according to caregivers, worked for years in the home section of a department store. She absolutely loved folding the towels in the laundry station, and asked them every day what else she needed to do. The station gave her a sense of purpose.

So how do you implement these stations? Here are some frequently asked questions:

  1. What kinds of stations should we create? Create stations based on the residents’ backgrounds-careers, hobbies, routines. Also keep in mind the surrounding area. Are you in a farming community? A medical hub? A lake community? You are trying to create areas where residents will interact with familiar things, so find out what familiar means to them. It is also good to have a mixture of stations that appeal to both female and male residents.
  2. Where do we locate them? Locate stations in a part of the community that makes sense in relation to the station subject matter. A vanity could be located in or near the salon or spa. A desk could be set up near offices or in a library. A gardening station near windows overlooking a courtyard or in the courtyard (if access is possible). If there is not space in a common area, alcoves or sitting areas in corridors are another great option. For more calming stations like sensory or baby stations, locate in a quiet area of the community to limit noise and disruption. If you have a small community with limited available floor space, hang themed artwork and some flatter items on the wall (keep in mind ADA requirements for corridors).
  3. What goes into a station? Typically you want some sort of furniture to ground the station. A vanity can work for dressing up or a wedding theme. A desk can house a variety of careers like secretary, salesperson, teacher, lawyer. Some areas of your community are already set up to use as a station, like a smaller kitchen area (not the main kitchen) or the spa. Install artwork that relates to your theme in close proximity as a visual cue. Lastly, stock with safe, related items (you can shop our website for these).
  4. But won’t everything get wrecked or disappear? Many times while I have been setting up, I will get someone at the community commenting how it’s not going to stay ‘nice’ for very long. The stations are not meant to be picture-perfect art installations, they are for an activity. Like any activity, sometimes things are used and need to be replaced. Create a list of items in each station and/or take a picture of the completed product. Keep lists/images in close proximity or in an office. This helps night staff to return items from common areas and residents’ rooms back to the correct station (and helps curb theft internally).
  5. How do we maintain stations? Check often for cleanliness. Look through drawers, baskets, and cabinets consistently to make sure they are not becoming hiding places for food or other unwanted items. Make sure cloth items (baby clothes and blankets, scarves from vanity, aprons and towels in kitchen) are laundered on a regular schedule. Straighten and sort items as needed. As mentioned above, use your lists to take inventory regularly and keep stations stocked.

The great thing about these stations is that there is so much room for creativity and customization. Next week we will show you some example stations we set up, and how you might be able to use the ideas in your community. Have questions or something you want us to cover? Contact us here and let us know!

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