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The Mixed Realities of Memory Care

Though everyone is residing in the same physical space in the present time, each person in the memory facility is existing in his or her own reality of place and time.

My mom recently decided that my father is alive and is there with her. He was, apparently, watching television with her just before I got there this week. I couldn’t help the image that came into my mind from the movie “Ghost”. Maybe he really was there! Sometimes, she wants to to go home to her house in Miami, if her mother is home. Most of the time she is remembering Miami now.

My mom and her mom, possibly in front of the family store – around 1950

Many residents there speak of loved ones who should be coming home soon. Some must think they are at choir rehearsal because they are singing, or moaning, but singing seems better. One man kept getting off his chair to get on the floor in either a prayer position or a yoga rest position, I am not sure. No matter how many times the staff picked him up and put him back in a chair, he was back up and on the floor in minutes. He obviously was somewhere else in his mind besides the dining room at a memory care place.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they could be where their minds are? If their rooms could look like their rooms in their old houses and if staff and visitors could talk about their relatives just exactly as the residents are seeing them, in that place and time?

A colleague showed me an article in an AARP magazine of a memory place in California that is all set up as if it was the 1950’s. They have the idea of creating a familiar environment for people who are predominantly, in their own minds, living at that time.

The education world is focusing on child-centered learning, individualized education that helps each student find his or her passion. How about adult-centered, individualized care? Perhaps there could be a scribe at the facilities noting the stories, the anecdotes, the descriptions of the people and places in the world of each resident. These could be printed and shared so that staff and visitors alike could enter each person’s world, even if only briefly, and be with them there.

I know their worlds are often changing, but so are the worlds of children. What excites them one day will fall by the wayside the next. Why would we not invest as much in the lives and psychological well-being of our parents as we would in our children? How might these care places look and behave if more resources were put towards dwelling where they are?

I guess I am mostly just reaching into the darkness to try and find something that will help the anxiety and uncertainty which envelops my mom. It is difficult to hear her ask questions about loved ones who have passed and think that they are alive because she is unaware of where she is in time and place.

I will say, I had a good silent chuckle this weekend after we got out of “The Lion King” movie and she said, “I have seen that movie several times and it surprises me that a filmmaker never redid it.” Well, Disney, I guess it is time you remade some of your movies!!!

2 thoughts on “The Mixed Realities of Memory Care

  1. Very well said Michelle. It would indeed be wonderful I think if the memory care facilities could function at that much higher level.

    You know, a lot of people your mom’s and my age who are not in a severe memory loss condition are also dwelling a lot on the past, particularly the 1950’s, though we are not living in it in the present. I’ve learned this from being a participant in a FB group of people who went to bungalow colonies in the Catskills in our pre-teens and teens.  It has thousands of members and they/we are reminiscing constantly.  It is, after all, a fact that most of our lives are behind us. I can’t remember (no pun intended) when that thought first came to me, but it was a revelation.

    Love, Cousin Ricky

     

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