The Problem with Using Floor Plants in Memory Care Communities

Floor plants are a constant struggle in senior living communities. They’re over-used, often shoved into every possible nook and cranny. They are difficult to keep clean and free from dust. And in memory care, they provide a whole new set of problems.

I remember the first time I was told that floor plants should never be used in memory care communities. I was attending a presentation put on by memory care specialists, for designers. We talked about space planning, materials, and furnishings. And towards the end, one of the memory care specialists brought up floor plants. “Never put floor plants in memory care. Male residents sometimes use them as a toilet.” I’ll admit, I was surprised by this statement. As a toilet? She went on to explain that the plant cued the resident to being outside, and that many men from this generation grew up urinating outside in the woods. I still was skeptical. That is, until several months later when I picked up a floor plant and there was a puddle underneath it. And it wasn’t because someone accidentally watered it.

Besides the toilet issue, the fact that the plants are in a large pot creates some other problems. Residents like to hide things in the pot. There is typically dried moss at the top of the pot around the base of the plant, and I’ve found items purposefully hidden underneath this layer of moss. The pots also welcome garbage. They are similar sizes and shapes to garbage cans, and often sit in corners or behind furniture where a likely place for a garbage can would be. Here are some examples of things I’ve found:

And lastly, they’re just tough to maintain. The leaves need to be dusted and wiped clean, and the pot checked for debris quite often. When memory care communities already have many other important things demanding the staff’s time, cleaning floor plants will never get done.

Rachael’s Comments: Yes, all too true, unfortunately! I always find that plants (real and fake) get dusty, don’t get watered enough, and residents will often store items in the pots. I have found myself picking a decent amount of used tissues and forgotten trinkets out of plants throughout the years!

Although floor plants may not be a problem in every community, it’s best to just avoid having them in memory care. The maintenance required and the potential for a mess outweigh their aesthetics.