I promise…I remember

Happy memories can be triggered by many things; music, smells and tactile materials as well as imagery.  Of course everyone is different so when it comes to incorporating reminiscence pieces into our dementia designs, I am always looking for ways to engage with the widest resident audience possible.  I think it’s commonly acknowledged that not all people living in care homes wish to be reminded of the war, and reminiscence designs for residents living with dementia, need to move with the times.  For instance, in the music room at the recently completed Henley Manor for Hallmark Care Homes, we not only featured 1960s icons but people who also had a connection with the local area.  Framed Dusty Springfield albums and George Harrison sheet music provide the art interest in the room including some Beatles music scores which sit on the piano, for residents to look at.

Thinking back to my own childhood and significant things which I remember, it occurred to me that my time as a Brownie and then a Girl Guide were packed with happy and varied memories.  I recall the excitement of my first pack holiday, the significance of our camp blankets, the aroma of toasting marshmallows over the fire and the songs we would sing.  Before I left for camp, my mother pulled out all her old badges from the attic and shared her own stories.  Memories shared between generations, only increased my excited anticipation as I left for my first holiday away.  Pack meetings on a Friday night, where I would bounce up to Brown Owl, clutching my white tester slip to show that I had successfully completed another interest badge, how I felt when I was awarded the crisp brown triangle with the yellow embroidery, choosing where on my uniform sleeve to sew it and how proud I was when I reached the dizzy heights of Sixer of the Elves.  So many memories, from the enrolment ceremony, the words, “I promise”, to moving up to Guides, the smell of the hall, the conker brown shiny polished floor, the fish and chip teas I was sometimes treated to after meetings, the emergency 2p for the phone and 5p for the bus which I used to rattle in my belt purse.

Whilst I am in my early 50s, I felt that the Girl Guide theme would transcend a broad age group of care home residents, stimulating memories of their own times as a Brownie or a Guide or perhaps that of their daughter’s time in the movement.  One of the communal lounges we designed at Henley Manor has a craft theme to it which seemed the perfect place to feature a “reminiscence camp blanket”. Deliberately chosen in a baby soft wool finish to suit the more sensitive skin of an older person, the blanket is sensory, full of interest, featuring both Brownie and Girl Guide badges providing a talking point for residents and those caring for them.