Dementia Patients Relive the Past at Special 1950s-Inspired Care Home

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At Fiona Gardens, a residential care facility in Sale, Greater Manchester, the staff is dedicated to providing more than just the standard level of care. They’re taking on new and creative projects to help patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia with their memory problems in ways traditional nursing homes and other care facilities for the elderly have never dreamed of.

While they know they cannot change the course of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they can help improve the mood and behavior of their patients by helping them reminisce about the good old days. Their latest masterpiece is a large room dressed up as a 1950s sitting room, known as the “Reminiscence Room.” Complete with floral wallpaper, mid-century furniture, a Singer sewing machine, lace doilies, and a stereogram that plays music from the likes of Elvis and the Everly Brothers, the room is a painstakingly accurate version of the past.

And so far, it has done a beautiful job of taking residents on a field trip into their childhood and adolescent years. Reminiscing about the past is known to help people with dementia stay happy, but a 2009 study at Exeter University also showed that it improved memory performance by 12 percent.

82-year-old Joy lives at the home and believes the room has helped her recall things from her past. “The Reminiscence Room is beautifully decorated and a nice place to sit and think,” she says. “It reminds me of my childhood home and has a sewing machine just like the one my mum used to take up the hems on my dresses. The radiogram brings back fond memories of the one which used to hold all my dad’s records.”

Fiona Gardens isn’t the first facility to offer a collection of vintage items to help patients regain memories, but it is hoping to help spread the idea to other areas. Staff members now hold regular “reminiscence sessions” in the recreated space, and they’re looking to help open similar rooms in their other residential care facilities in the area, as well as “memory cafés” where people with dementia can go with their families or caregivers.

Other recent achievements at Fiona Gardens include offering GPS tracking for families with elderly members who are prone to wandering and the new over-50 club that promotes social activities in an effort to stave off loneliness and improve mood and memory. Thanks to the dedication of the staff, we’re sure the number of services Fiona Gardens offers and the moods of their residents will only continue to rise.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?