A report issued in the European press in March finally made its way to my parents’ local newspaper: A retirement home called Alexa Seniors’ Residence in Dresden, East Germany is assisting elderly Alzheimer’s patients by taking them back to another time.
By recreating the Communist era, filling the residence with decor from before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, offering residents clothing from the time, and even providing a shop filled with the kinds of products that residents would have once seen for sale in their local neighborhoods, patients with dementia return to a familiar scene. And to a moment when they were confident in what they knew and what they could do.
One of the early news stories–with lots of photos of the retro environment created at Alexa–can be found here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4276120/Home-helps-Alzheimer-s-patients-recreating-East-Germany.html
While it’s hard to imagine how returning to an era of control could be a good thing, sometimes the kind of memories are less important than simply the possibility of remembering. As I’ve observed my mom’s painful decline into dementia, I’ve noticed that many of the moments she recalls most vividly are also the most painful–the events and people from her past with which she has experienced the least amount of closure.