Unique door panels tell residents' stories at Stanley nursing home

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At a nursing home in Stanley, residents get to tell their own stories — and not lose their way — with the doors to their  rooms. 

Residents of Nashwaak Villa are personalizing their doors with large decals made to look so real it’s hard to tell the doors aren’t completely new.

Without name plaques, it can be hard to distinguish one door from another in a nursing home, which sometimes leads  people to go into the wrong room by mistake.

The door project at the central New Brunswick home has allowed residents, sometimes with the help of their families, to pick a design that was familiar. 

“It’s provided the residents with choice,” said Daphne Noonan, the nursing home’s executive director.

“The residents were extremely proud of the fact that they were able to have the opportunity to choose their own door.”

Pick door

door-decals Unique door panels tell residents' stories at Stanley nursing home

Personal support worker Pam Spilman found the idea for the door decals on Facebook. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Residents could choose a door decal from a catalogue or provide a photo of the door from their former home or a place that was special to them. The decals are made by a company called True North based in Holland.

Personal support worker Pamela Spilman was on Facebook when she spotted what the Dutch company was doing in nursing homes in Holland. She knew it was something the villa should try.

“Sometimes they lose so much of their past life when they have to come into a nursing home. How great would it be if we could just give some little thing back.”

She said the first resident to get a new door was thrilled.

“Lloyd [Branscombe] came down and grabbed me, and he couldn’t talk, but he wanted me to come up,” Spilman said. “And I really didn’t know it was on. And when I seen it, he was all tears in his eyes, like he was just so happy to see it.

“And even now, he brings everyone around to see that door.”

Personal touch

door-decals Unique door panels tell residents' stories at Stanley nursing home

Jean Reardon Cormier chose to have her door decal feature the door to a church in Woodlands, where her daughter was married. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Another resident, Jean Reardon Cormier, gave her door a personal touch.

Her daughter was married at a church in Woodlands, “so when she heard about the doors, she says, ‘Mom, let’s pick the door on the church,’ and that’s what we did,” Cormier said.

Other doors feature stained glass, grill work and one shows a man fly fishing in the distance.

Greta Spilman, who is not related to Pamela, said her multi-photo panel reminds her of so many things. The tree reminds her of Christmas gatherings, the yellow of her husband and her love of sunflowers, and the waterfall of her Pokiok Falls honeymoon. 

“One of the first things it stimulated was reminiscing and stories of doors from the residents past,” said Noonan.

She said this has happened with one resident’s family, who suggested adding sweet peas to one of the designs to help their mother, who has dementia, find her room or be directed to it more easily. 

“When she’s looking for her room we can quite easily point her to the door with the sweet pea flowers on it, and she will immediately launch into telling us stories about her husband and times from her past that involves sweet peas and having them in the garden and picking them for the ladies in the church and whatnot,” Noonan said.

Changed environment

door-decals Unique door panels tell residents' stories at Stanley nursing home

Staff members Andy MacFarlane and Kevin Young install a door panel. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Noonan said so many have taken great pride in the project. 

“It’s just really changed the whole feel of the environment of our home when you walk through and you see that every door looks different … it looks like a real neighbourhood. That was my biggest surprise, just how it changes the feel of our home.” 

Pamela Spilman said that for many residents, the door gives them a sense of both home and security . 

The decals for the doors range in cost from $130 to $170.

This assisted living facility is letting its residents customize their doors2:19

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