Investigation of Eligible Picture Categories for Use as Environmental Cues in Dementia-Sensitive Environments

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Environmental cues, such as pictures, could be helpful in improving room-finding and wayfinding abilities among older patients. The aim of this study was to identify picture categories that are preferred and easily remembered by older patients and cognitively impaired patients and which therefore might be suitable for use as environmental cues in acute care settings.


Twelve pictures were presented to a sample of older patients (n = 37). The pictures represented different categories: familiarity (familiar vs. unfamiliar), type of shot (close-up vs. wide shot), and picture content (nature vs. animal vs. urban). We tested the patients’ votes of preference and abilities to identify and immediately recall pictures. Cognitively impaired patients (n = 14) were assessed by the abbreviated mental test and the mini mental state examination and were compared with patients without cognitive impairments (n = 23) using a repeated measures analysis of variance.


The results showed a main effect of familiarity on positive vote and recall of pictures. The absence of interaction effects of familiarity and group indicated an overall impact of familiarity on the sample. Within cognitively impaired patients, a significant difference in recall of picture content between urban (20%) and animal (9%) was found.


Pictures, which patients were able to relate to in terms of familiarity and the characteristics urban and nature, seem to be suitable for use as environmental cues. Besides functioning as such, we assume, based on literature, that pictures could further enhance the ambiance or serve as prompts for communication and interaction.

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