Picture perfect

By Jenn Watt

Published Feb. 5 2019

T hree cheers for Luann Coghlan and the Highland Wood community for embarking on a mural project that has transformed a corner of the Haliburton long-term care home into a picturesque farm scene.

I first saw images of Coghlan’s artwork on Facebook where she has shared her progress as she put in hours of time voluntarily. It looked good online but in person it’s much more impressive.

A waterfall pours gently over a cliffside in autumn. A couple sits side-by-side on a wooden swing one offering the other a single daisy. As the wall bends around the corner a road emerges with a bright red classic sedan heading away past a large white farmhouse a pie cooling in the window.

The sky is blue dotted with fluffy clouds. There’s a pond with ducks. A barn with cows. And flowers everywhere.

On Thursday I met with Luann and several supporters of her work from Haliburton Highlands Health Services including CEO Carolyn Plummer volunteer co-ordinator Brigitte Gebauer and Highland Wood director of care Michelle Douglas.

They were all enthusiastic about the work that had been done and hopeful the mural can continue to expand throughout the home.

In recent years more attention has been paid to enhancing the physical environment of long-term care homes. The Butterfly Care Home project in Peel Region captured national attention following an article in the Toronto Star. The U.K.-based company transformed one floor of a long-term care home with bright colours and stunning artwork. The program which is also about changing the approach to care was recently approved for five of the region’s long-term care homes.

Closer to home Peterborough Regional Health Centre posted a video in January of artists transforming the C3 in-patient unit with bright familiar images such as a barber shop farm fields and blooming flowers.

Kawartha Lakes This Week reports that at Lindsay’s Victoria Manor an artist has painted over some doorways with landscapes to deter residents with dementia from entering rooms they shouldn’t be.

The hope is that murals will make these institutional environments seem warmer friendlier and more interesting.

At Highland Wood the residents have shown an active interest in the art. They’ve supervised Luann as she worked reminisced about the past and kept up with progress. Some have put in requests for what she should paint outside their rooms.

When I visited last week it didn’t take long before a resident named John came to take a look. The cars on the mural got him talking about his own car. Later a resident named Emerson joined us to share his memories also inspired by that car.

Luann said she thought painting a specific location would give people a destination as they walk down the corridor. Instead of going to the end of the hall they’re going to see the farm.

Although she’s already put in 80 hours of her time Coghlan said she’s planning to continue with designs in the works for other hallways.

HHHS is looking for other artists to volunteer their time making Highland Wood more vibrant and engaging. Give Brigitte Gebauer a call if you think you could help out: 705-457-1392 ext 2927 or Gebauer@hhhs.ca.