A Look at the Past Helps Dementia Patients Cope with the Present

June 4, 2012

Taking a trip down memory lane takes on new meaning when focusing on retrofitting a home with a nod to the needs of a senior suffering from one of the dementia types.

A trend in retro-decorating or “dementia-proofing” a senior loved one’s home can be a preventative, holistic and cost-effective method that may make day-to-day routines a bit more familiar for some seniors.

What is retro-decorating? 

Retro-decorating a home is a matter of identifying your loved one’s interests and pastimes from a bygone era, and then tastefully incorporating relevant vintage items and nostalgic objects into home décor.  Perhaps familiar items such as a rotary dial phone from the workplace or an old kitchen timer will kindle recognition and ease with your senior.

Ericssons Bakelittelefon 1931

Why does it work?

Dementia progressively debilitates a person’s global cognitive abilities, and often results in declining and terminal memory loss.  Short-term memory is diminished first, while long-term memory is often retained and can be stimulated.  Therefore, retro-decorating may create a sense of ease and reduce anxiety for dementia sufferers because they are familiar with environments that they recognize through their intact long-term memory.

Familiar objects to consider for retro-decorating or “memory therapy,” include:

  • Old-style fixtures/appliances/fittings
  • Vintage furniture
  • Scent recollection from old soap/cleaning/toiletry brands, e.g. Lysol, Tussy, Pepsodent
  • Vintage advertisements
  • Cultural references

Get started with fun and cost-effective ways to retro-style your loved one’s home!  Here’s where to begin:

  • Local antiques and consignment shops
  • Garage sales
  • Online auction sites
  • Retro outfitter furniture stores
  • Thrift stores
  • The family attic or basement

Do you have a favorite item from the past that brings back fond memories?  How about a rotary dial phone or a manual adding machine?  Please share your memories with our readers’ forum!

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