Matt Muircroft has used his professional decorator’s acumen to adorn areas in St. George’s Chapel and Windsor Castle—two of the United Kingdom’s most storied landmarks. But he considers his latest project, decorating a new apartment for his wife Julie, his crowning glory.
Julie, now 75 years old, was diagnosed with dementia back in 2009. Citing the desire to live closer to family, the couple recently decided to move back to Scotland from an English town just west of London, where they had lived for over three decades.
According to The Daily Mail, when Matt learned that a dramatic change in surroundings could cause Julie’s dementia to worsen, he decided to use his decorating skills to ease his ailing wife’s transition.
Matt meticulously re-created the interior of their previous apartment, attending to every last detail, even down to the placement family photographs and the shape of the fireplace.
“Caring for Julie and helping her cope with the changes the condition had brought, by doing anything I can, has become my sole focus,” Matt told The Daily Mail. “Recreating the interior has really helped Julie settle and without a doubt it’s been the most important job of my life.”
Routine, familiarity help people with dementia cope
Dementia symptoms can vary widely, depending on which type an individual suffers from (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, vascular). Hallucinations, paranoia, memory loss and delirium are just a few of the most common cognitive consequences of these conditions.
No matter the cause of their symptoms, experts agree that recognizable surroundings can help keep people with dementia calm.
“They thrive on familiarity,” says Holly Hart, LVN, director of residential health services at Claremont Manor, a continuing care retirement community in Claremont, California. “Familiar faces, a familiar environment, even familiar food—anything they can use as a touchstone.”
A predictable schedule can also reduce the agitation a dementia-stricken individual experiences.
Jed Levine, Executive Vice President and director of programs and service for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association says that routines help ground those with memory loss and cognitive impairment. Activities and places that resonate with a person’s pre-dementia life can help them remain active and engaged in the world around them, even as their disease progresses.
To learn more about how daily activities and routines can benefit people with dementia, see: How to Develop a Daily Routine for People with Dementia
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor