People who suffer Alzheimer disease and other types of dementia have strong memories of their long-gone lives and experiences and almost zero memory of recent and current events. Detailed reconstruction of past-day environment has proved to be an excellent way to stimulate memory in patients.
According to research data, ambience, its design and layout influences people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Based on data received during a research on this influence, healthcare and caregiving specialists decided to develop and create interior design solutions to help patients improve their conditions. Research data suggests that the behavior of residents of dementia care facilities with different environments varies greatly. It creates a rich basis for further research, engineering work, construction and interior design.
In the 1980s and 1990s, tons of articles and guides and books about creating safe and homely environments for dementia patients were written and published. These works highlight the importance of using comforting color palettes, providing healthy acoustics and uncluttered rooms. All these solutions are largely based on clinical studies focusing on patients’ reactions to outer stimulants and tendencies observed in patients placed in respective environments. Caregivers should keep track of every patient’s reaction to particular stimulants. This can help them minimize stress and anxiety, which may occur under certain circumstances, such as relocation.
Memory is a special aspect of treatment of Alzheimer disease, because patients’ memory takes the whole brunt of it. However, there are some “growth areas”, which, if stimulated properly, can pretty much improve a patient’s quality of life. People suffering from Alzheimer disease may lose memories of recent events and not memorize current ones at all. However, they tend to have an excellent memory for long past events.
- These include the most epoch-making ones from childhood (school entry, graduation, etc.), adolescence (college years, graduation, etc.), youth (first job, professional success, marriage, etc.)
Also, they remember the environment and circumstances that accompanied those events and, generally, what was happening in the world during that time. For example, if you ask a patient about the recent U. S. presidential campaign, a confused glance will be the answer. And if you ask him/her about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, you may hear an hour-or-so-long yarn backed by a deep-down analysis. This observation has prompted an approach, which created a basis for immersion therapy.
Old memories and safe ambience do mix!
There are so called day centers – closed areas, where patients can enjoy all sorts of activities and marvel at beautiful views. They are non-institutional facilities and are very different from traditional nursing homes. As a rule, they have the appearance of small towns with everything that makes a decent town life: homes, stores, barber shops, recreation centers, etc. Managers and nursing staff are to provide a healthy environment through using softly colored wall paper, furniture, carpets, etc., based on recent research findings concerning patients’ reactions to stimulants.
Given Alzheimer patients’ natural adherence to old memories, there is hardly a better solution than taking them back to those good old days. Dementia care facilities strive to style environment according to the period, to which the patients’ minds refer. The facades of homes, clothes worn by the nursing staff, and the exterior may reflect the trends of those past days. There may be scaled-down replicas of world-renowned architectural masterpieces.
Also, there are museums intended specially for dementia patients, which boast ambiences that are almost identical to those that were popular a long time ago. The Denmark’s “House of Memories” is a great example. This article describes the place, which fully replicates the 1950s interior.
Research and practice has given us all grounds to believe that residents of non-institutional facilities tend to be friendlier, more peaceful, and have better movements than those of traditional hospitals and nursing homes. Reconstruction of old environments triggers the brightest and most vivid memories in them. Most important, it reduces the use of drugs dramatically!
What you can do if…
If you suspect Alzheimer disease in one of your elderly family member, don’t panic. Do your best to provide decent health care for your loved one. Even if you do not have an opportunity to place him/her in a facility, you can create a safe home environment for him/her. Consult an interior designer, who has experience with dementia care centers, and modify your interior as advised. Remember stories he/she once told you about his/her best days. Refer to these stories and fill the house with vestiges from those days. This will keep his/her memory working for much longer.