In decorating a long-term care facility, art is the finishing touch that provides a sense of home and style. Beyond just the beauty of art, the purpose of art is to make one think.

In senior living and skilled nursing, decorating with art begs the questions: What do families and staff have in common to think about? What do we want to say with our art?

Art enhances relationship-based care and services.

With member input and research on best practices, Park Springs life plan community in Stone Mountain, GA, introduced the household model of care to the state, which sets up long-term care as one would a household. Most long-term care is built with a top-down approach, but Park Springs designed the community from the bottom up. The health of our members is absolutely of paramount importance, but also important is their quality of life.

The most integral aspect of providing both top-notch care and meaningful quality of life in long-term care is the relationship with care partners and nurses, those that find purpose in their life by caring for others.

Park Springs’ “Sentinels of Legacy” mural, created by Tarleton Blackwell, an artist of note from Manning, SC, weaves cellphone photos and stories together to do just that. The mural took 22 months to paint and stretches 26 feet in length, telling the story of the beautiful relationships that can develop in long-term care between care partners, nurses and the families they serve.

For example, Patrick Karoma, a care partner on the night shift in long-term skilled care, is an ordained minister who formed a relationship with Park Springs member Mary Brown, who was a missionary in her career. Brown would tell Karoma stories of her missionary work in China. Often, they would hold hands and sing hymns together.

“It brings me deep satisfaction to know people like Brown, who were so active in society and made such a difference,” Karoma shares. In the mural, a white dove floats above Brown, representing the spirit that connects us all.

Art as a reflection of legacy.

Moving  to a long-term care community can be a pivotal and emotional experience for members and their children. It often is a time of reflection on legacy, family, life and living.

Public art, such as murals, have been shown to build community. By featuring members of Park Springs and the strength of the relationships with their care providers, “Sentinels of Legacy” has sparked many conversations and reflection for many of the members, their families, nurses and care partners.

At the center of the mural is the story of Park Springs member Ken Luyk, a strong family man and the leader of the band in the Salvation Army. In the mural, Luyk is surrounded by four of his grandchildren during a family celebration. In addition to Luyk and his grandchildren are two care partners, Tawa Benson-Esho and Marlene Trottman, joining the celebration and serving as a tribute to the purpose and value of the work of care partners and nurses. The connection between Luyk and his grandchildren, the legacy he passed on to his adult children and grandchildren, and the relationship care partners play in the lives of members is so universal — especially for families with members in long-term care — that it often is inspiration for discussions between other families of their own relationships and legacies.

The artistry, the size and the scope of the mural are powerful. That power is in direct relation to the power of the stories that are told in the mural.

At Park Springs, we understand that art should be much more than just an element of the décor. Rather, it can tell a story, spark conversation and reflect the community’s approach to long-term care, our values and the respect we have for our members and the nurses and care partners who find purpose in their lives by helping others.

Watch the video below and read more about the mural here.