A recent article in The Care Home Environment Magazine by Peter Rose, the owner of The Care Home Designer, discusses seven key elements that are fundamentally important to how well a care home will function. These elements are colour schemes, themes, wayfinding, personalisation, destinations, lighting and toilets/bathrooms. We were particularly interested in what he had to say about wayfinding and specifically about memory boxes. He said:
“Memory boxes are a proven, effective solution that can be employed separately or collectively to orientate residents with dignified and highly effective personalisation. The ability to locate and enter one’s own space within the care home setting is vital in supporting confidence and personal identity. Having familiar items on display provides stimulus for conversation through reminiscence and valuable cues to enable carers to initiate relevant conversation.”
We would agree with this and our memory boxes are certainly designed to support these functions. However, we've come to realise that the name ‘memory box’ is actually slightly misleading because its purpose is not limited to the display of memories and is different to the type of memory box that a family may put together for a loved one; a collection of personal items to be used as a talking point for reminiscence therapy.
A memory box in a care home environment context is designed to display objects that will trigger a desired response in those with dementia and this response could be linked to memories, such as personal objects, but they can also be used for orientation – enabling people to locate key areas such as their own bedrooms, activity rooms or dining areas. By displaying something directly relevant to the area, it can communicate its purpose in a different way to a 2 dimensional sign providing a different cue for them to understand. Used in combination with dementia signage, personalisation of doors (for bedrooms), colour contrast and other wall decoration such as wall murals, it enables people to find their way around much more effectively meaning they can participate in everyday activities and are much less likely to become anxious.
Therefore, the object does not necessarily need to be something ‘memory’ related and it doesn’t even need to be personal, unless it’s demarcating a personal space, it just needs to be relevant.