Allanah Lucas has cognitive change. Her condition means she suffers memory loss, but every time she leaves her aged care home room she is filled with the memories of her family.

Key points:

  • A new facility in Dunsborough is specifically designed to be dementia-friendly
  • All residents at the facility have a memory box outside their room to help them remember where they live
  • The boxes help residents hold onto their memories

She remembers her father and his love of orchids and their journey from Malaysia when she was young.

“By the time I have got to the dining room I am feeling pretty on top of the world,” she says.

Ms Lucas’s memory is jogged by something pretty innocuous in the scheme of things — a wooden box with a see-through door.

Also known as a memory box, it contains photographs and other personal items.

“Every time I go through my doorway … I always look at them all and remember so many wonderful times and things that have happened in my life … and all the beautiful people in my life as well,” Ms Lucas says.

“You have a lot of time to think when you’re in a home and you do travel back in your mind a lot … sometimes you need to be reminded about the really happy good times.

Boxes especially helpful for those with dementia

The boxes are outside every room at a new specially designed aged care facility in Dunsborough. The 80-bed facility caters for people with high physical needs in a dementia-friendly environment.

Some of the boxes have family photos, others have newspaper clippings, and others contain something more unique.

A woman wearing a red jumper standing near a box on a wall containing a model red car and photos

Patricia Spaull lights up every time she sees the red MG inside her memory box.(

ABC South West WA: Jackson Worthington

)

In Patricia Spaull’s box sits a bright red model car.

“It was the day I saved up to buy my own car, and I still get excited about it because it’s a beautiful car but I’m sensible with it,” she says, prompted by the sight of her memory box.

“That was mine and I helped save up to get it … I just feel that I did something that I really wanted, and I managed to get it.”

For Ms Spaull’s daughter, Karen Wyburn, it’s obvious the box triggers her mother’s memory.

“It’s not always easy to find something that she can connect with, but I just know that she remembers the car and that is something we can talk about,” Ms Wyburn says.

An older woman, wearing a red jumper, and her daughter sitting in an aged care home

Patricia Spaull and her daughter, Karen Wyburn, often talk about the red MG during visits.(

ABC South West WA: Jackson Worthington

)

Special design helps residents find their way

The memory boxes are just one aspect of the dementia-focused design at the Capecare home in Dunsborough, in south-west Western Australia.

The walls are also painted in different light colours to enable people to find their way back to their rooms.

Facility manager Liz Avery says the design is aimed at making life more accessible for people living with dementia.

“With our ageing population and the growing numbers of people who do have dementia, it is important for us to create a building and an environment that is dementia enabling,” Ms Avery says.

“That means we’ve created light spaces, we’ve created open hallways and the design of the wing [means] that even if those individuals are lost within the wing they will still find their way back to a familiar environment.”

Posted , updated 

Memory boxes help people with dementia hold on to their past
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