Rummage Boxes–Dementia Activites
What Are Rummage Boxes?
Rummage or activity boxes are increasingly popular ways to fill the restless need of dementia patients for sensory stimulation. Most articles I’ve read recommend revisiting a younger period in the patient’s life, determining the sights, sounds, smells and tactile senses that evoke memory. It makes sense that the elderly respond better to sensory memories from their youth due to short-term memory loss. My mom will start talking about something from forty years ago as if it were yesterday. She doesn’t seem to be able to recall things at will but random old memories surface at irregular times.
Many of the cute memory boxes and rummage boxes you find on sites like Pinterest are lovely and clever craft projects but I’m not sure they would work for my mom. She does have the rummaging urge. Because of her immobility we don’t have to worry about her going into other rooms, opening drawers and closets.
If that is the case for your loved one you can find examples of “stations” much like the kind used in pre-school but adapted for the elderly. There are sewing stations, non-working kitchen stations, garden murals with attached flower boxes and tool areas for men.
One Memory Care facility I visited had a vintage car in an enclosed courtyard. The motor was there but non-functioning. It even had keys in the ignition. Residents could sit inside, open the hood and turn the wheel. I’m not to sure if the radio worked but that would have been fun. It may sound silly but it is a link to a safe, remembered, past for those who have lost their memories. Returning to the familiar facilitates calmness.
These elaborate set ups are usually found in memory facilities.
There is even an art company that specializes in visual diversions for the memory impaired to turn them away from exit doors. It’s very clever. They paint murals over the doors, incorporating the exits into a scene that resembles a pantry or garden. https://www.creativeartco.com
Back to Reality At Our House
Mom’s immobility means she can touch or rummage what she can reach from wherever she is sitting. She fiddles with her blankets, nail files, chapstick, kleenexes and dental floss in her bedroom. In the kitchen she fiddles with her silverware, the napkin holder, tissue box, placemats and her eating apron.
Visual Is Not For Us
Memory boxes often have old photos. Since Mom is blind, that’s not an option. Using former interests as a focal point for the boxes makes sense. My mom loved to cook and bake but if I filled a box with measuring spoons, recipe cards and spatulas she would know something was up. She has enough cognitive awareness to know those things don’t belong in her bedroom. I offered her a fidget spinner one night when she was especially restless. She held it briefly and handed it back saying, “That’s a toy for kids.” She seemed insulted I would think she would be interested in it.
Smells and Taste
I know Mom responds to smells. She often remarks about the smells coming from the kitchen. We also found a new body cream that she invariably remarks on every day, “This smells good!” She drinks mint tea at lunch and I notice her leaning forward to smell it. She also responds to taste. If something tastes good to her she will discuss it at length. Right now she is in love with Costco Pumpkin Streusel muffins. She talked about them for two weeks. She asked my dad if he could find the recipe for those muffins they had for breakfast–we’d run out. She doesn’t remember they came from Costco. Last week I bought four dozen to keep in the freezer. She had one for breakfast and didn’t even remark on it. You have to laugh, try as you will, you can’t keep up with a broken mind.
Mom also enjoys fingering different textures. She asks for her softest blanket against her skin. She has a toothpick device made of metal and rubber and I notice her fiddling with it in the evenings. I think she would enjoy a box of tactile items to manipulate, but I’m stumped about what’s best for filling it. She puts things in her mouth that don’t belong there, so small buttons and things she might choke on, are not an option. Rummage items would need to logically belong in the bedroom. When she is very confused, it wouldn’t matter but in her more lucid moments she would think I was being condescending if I were to put random objects near her chair. For the present I think putting the things she already fingers in a box or basket by her chair will be best. My under-stimulated creative side would sure love to work on one of those cute scenes, though.
Have a Good Caregiving Day,