Recent events around moving my 70+ year old parents sparked an interest in memory care design. My dad is being challenged with signs of dementia as well as increasing difficulty with mobility. Coincidentally, a client had asked for help with decorating her mother's room in a memory care facility.
Both situations are shining a light on the importance of being intentional when creating safe, comfortable, and nurturing spaces for loved ones at this stage of life.
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when addressing memory care design:
Plants are natural healers with properties that either offer wellness on a physical or emotional level or both!
Some botanicals that assist with memory care design include:
Rosemary: the scent helps improve memory and focus
Lavender: With a purple pop of color, this plant helps reduce stress and improve cognitive function. It has a calming aromatic quality and encourages a restful sleep at night
Roses: studies show roses inspire relaxation and clear headedness
Lighting is not just a funcional element for memory care design. For people with dementia, good lighting helps improve their mental state, increases their willingness to participate in activities and helps them live more confidently.
On the other hand, poor lighting can have serious psychological effects.
Individuals with dementia are affected even more significantly because their brains lose the ability to process visual signals. Dark places can be scary. Which is why one of the biggest benefits of proper lighting is chasing away that fear. By properly lighting rooms so that there’s consistent, even lighting throughout, we’re able to reduce that fear, causing stress to drop and giving dementia care residents a better understanding of their surroundings. (via Your Life Senior LIving)
Evenly space out lights so the right amount exists. By using a balance of overhead lighting, natural light and lamps, a space can be mindfully illuminated.
Visual aids in the form of decor play an important role in memory care design. Having items that are familiar enhance the sense of being at home. Consider bringing in a favorite blanket, vase, or armchair to the space--anything that carries a positive emotional association.
Photos can help as well. These help stimulate memories for someone with early stages of dementia Alzheimer’s as well as those with advanced Alzheimer’s. Create an album with photos that include captions/names or have framed pictures of loved ones around the space. This brings a touch that is both comfortable and pleasant.
If it’s possible to get a photo of your loved one smiling, place it at the front of the album. When you see a photo of yourself smiling, you often instinctively smile back, which elicits a feeling of happiness. (via Alzheimers.net)
Music is powerful! Whether listening to or performing it, music produces a cognitive reaction in us. It reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward.
Harvard Medical School reports two recent studies findings—one in the United States and the other in Japan—showing that music doesn't just help us retrieve stored memories, it also helps us create new ones.
All the more reason to include music in memory care design. Pick out a retro record player to bring in a vintage touch or set up playlists to use on a sleek Google Home. Whatever the device, having access to music changes an environment 100%!
Aromatherapy uses scents to trigger olfactory receptors that stimulate the emotional center of the brain. For generations essential oils have been to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and depression. They can also boost memory, improve moods and ease agitation in patients living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Weaving in aromatherapy as part of memory care design is simple. Pick out favorite essential oils and a stylish diffuser to add to the night stand or dresser. Along with lavender and rosemary mentioned above, these are also beneficial:
Peppermint is an energizing scent, used to stimulate the mind.
Bergamot is a citrus oil that helps enliven the senses. Use this oil to treat stress, agitation, and anxiety.
Picking color is also an influential force for memory care design. Studies show that blue helps with concentration, for example. This hue calms the mind allowing for better focus and improved memory.
Most cool and neutral colors have a similar effect. Shades of green invoke calming feelings we get while in nature. Any design element that can promote tranquility is useful when designing for people needing memory care.
Taking a holistic approach to interior design is important in general for sustained wellness of body, mind, and spirit. There are certainly particular times in life when it's especially helpful to be intentional when creating a space.
If you or a family member are down sizing or requiring added assistance like memory care and would like some design guidance during this transition, simply start an online project to begin creating your next cozy space.