Using Big Calendars in Dementia Care

While I don’t believe in “reorienting” people with dementia (and no one should) there is something to be said for using big calendars in dementia care communities. We don’t want to try and bring people with dementia into our reality, but it’s a great idea to let them know what’s going on that day, or what the community is offering for lunch.

These are great examples of big wall calendars:

This calendar lists out the activities for each day. It’s posted right near the front door of the community, so visitors and families can see what their loved ones are up to. It’s also easily accessible and large enough print for residents to be able to read. While you may think that most residents with dementia don’t read or retain information, many do. For those that do, seeing a daily calendar or a dinner menu is comforting and familiar.

This calendar displays a list of birthdays, the month, and information about what this Brookdale community is celebrating (America) that month. It’s big, creative, and doesn’t look like it belongs in a preschool classroom.

This is a bad example of a wall calendar:

This board is used primarily for reorientation. It’s to remind residents of the date, season, and weather. It looks childish, and I also feel like it’s a little demeaning. For residents that can still read and retain information, this poster may feel a little cruel. “Of course the next holiday is Thanksgiving,” a resident may think.

I also recommend a menu board in the dining room. Not only do some residents like to read it, but it’s also a great reminder for the staff. When it’s time for a meal, many residents will ask what they’re having. It’s frustrating to hear staff members say, “I don’t know,” because it sounds like they aren’t invested in their residents’ well-being.

Amanda’s notes: My biggest issue with calendars/menu boards echoes Rachael’s point-do not make them childish, cluttered, or sloppy looking. Use a framed calendar or menu board. Make sure it is someone’s task to keep up the calendar and to keep it exciting and fresh. I feel like some people have the attitude that the boards are ‘just in the memory care’ and don’t show them the love they do in assisted or memory care where the calendars are more visible and residents have more feedback. I’ve I love Rachael’s December board where it has a mixture of images and text so residents of varying acuity levels can understand and enjoy it.

Make your calendars something both residents and staff can utilize and enjoy. Keep them clean, interesting, uncluttered, and, most importantly: adult-like.