This blog was written by Sarah Ainslie for client, New Vision. To see the original post, click here.
For people living with dementia there can be a range of triggers that cause anguish or agitation. For many, this can include mirrors. Mirrors can be upsetting because many with dementia don’t recognise the person in the reflection as themselves. Their response can range from anything from believing that a stranger is in the room with them or frustration that they don’t reply to them or copy what they’re doing. They can be scared that there is an intruder in their room or embarrassed that they have to undress in front of someone, in the case of a bathroom or bedroom.
In some cases, however, it can be a positive experience: some even forming a ‘friendship’ with the person in the mirror which can offer some comfort and companionship. Some with dementia will be unaffected.
The truth is that dementia affects people in many ways and each person’s response will be slightly different.
How to minimise distress from mirrors for those with dementia?
So how can you, as a hospital or care home, deal with this? Many forums and advice boards will tell you to cover or remove all mirrors however, in environments where you are caring for multiple people with a range of needs, this isn’t necessarily practical. Taking away mirrors could be detrimental to those who like the reflection and isn’t fair to those who have no unusual response. The solution, therefore, must be flexible and easily adaptable on a patient by patient basis.
We were made aware of this issue after we started working with hospitals on dementia-friendly projects. With our expertise in display materials we knew we could come up with a solution that could meet the needs of patients living with any stage of the disease.
The product we developed was the reversible mirror. It is actually a very simple concept; on one side you have a standard mirrored surface and on the other, a pictorial image. It is easy to mount on the wall, take down, reverse and put back up again. Those who like to have a mirror can do so and those who find it distressing can have a nice picture in their bedroom/bathroom. It can be easily changed from room to room, patient to patient; very quickly and without any specialist skills. It can be done as part of the process of turning a room around for a new patient or as needed once monitoring of the patient’s needs has been conducted.
As any healthcare professional will know, managing dementia is as much about caring for emotional needs as it is about physical ones and paying attention to small details such as this can make a huge positive impact on well-being.
See more information about our reversible mirrors here.