By Richard Ruhmann of Beechworth Hospital, Victoria, Australia ©dementiacareinternational.com
The following idea can really help people with dementia to be/stay aware of which meal of the day they are eating, or whether they are having morning or afternoon tea. The idea is one that can be used with equal success either at home, in a residential care facility or a day center.
Simply make up a set of placemats for each person with dementia. Each set comprises of one mat for each meal; for example, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper.
Richard creates each placemat on a computer and prints them out with landscape page orientation – on white paper.
Each heading is written in Times New Roman font, black writing on white paper, upper and lower case (not all upper case), size 72 and bold. At DCA, we have found through proven research results and experience that this writing formula is the easiest to read, understand and to remember for the person with dementia.
Each placemat features a corresponding symbol representing that particular meal. Richard uses a program called Boardmarker to find his symbols, which includes picture communication symbols.
The program is excellent; however, you do have to pay for it. If a purchase is out of the question, you most likely already have Clip Art on your computer. You can easily use this instead – just remember to choose simple, clear symbols that the person with dementia can relate to, keeping in mind that these symbols may not necessarily be the same ones you would relate to.
As a rule, remember to keep it very simple. Only use a minimum of symbols and leave a clear space between the heading and the graphics.
To ensure the placemats can be cleaned, they need to be laminated. To prevent any injury from sharp, pointy edges, remember to round all corners.