There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and according to research, 46% of carers find it difficult to provide appropriate and stimulating recreational activities for people with dementia which is why Boots UK has been working with Professor Victoria Tischler, Head of Dementia Care at the University of West London, to create multi-sensory memory box experiences for care home residents living with dementia.
The boxes contain carefully selected items and products from the Boots Archive, which tells the story of a high street brand with a 170 year heritage that has been part of people’s lives through the generations. Housed at the company’s head office in Nottingham, the Boots Archive collection contains tens of thousands of items that many people will associate with poignant memories and life milestones, such as the joy of a new baby brought back by the scent of baby lotion and talcum powder. From Devonshire violet bath salts, to cod liver oil and carbolic soap, the smell of these products can help to unlock memories of the past and spark conversation and discussion for those living with dementia.
Sophie Clapp, Boots archivist, who is helping to run further memory box sessions at care homes across the country during Dementia Action Week (21-27 May 2018) says the reactions of residents to items from the archive have been very moving:
“It’s wonderful that we have been able to use items from the Boots archive in this way. When you hand a person with dementia an item that they may remember from childhood, such as an old medicine tin, or a floral scent that they probably haven’t smelled in decades, the moment of recognition is very powerful and emotional. It has been so uplifting to be part of this project.”
“One of the reasons why items from the Boots archive are so well-suited to this research is because many of them have strong smells and scents and our sense of smell is closely linked with memory; probably more so than any of our other senses. The unique thing about scent is that it can be strongly linked to memories and milestones – whether it’s the comfort of your mother’s perfume or a day at the beach with sun cream.
“The items with the strongest scents tend to attract the most interest in the sessions, partly because identifying them is a challenge and this provokes conversation amongst the group, which is exactly what we want. The importance of smell in stimulating memories is something that I will be exploring further in my continued research.”
Elizabeth Fagan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Boots, comments: “Boots is committed to supporting people living with dementia and their carers, and we’re delighted to be able to open up our incredible archives as a resource to help understand its therapeutic benefit to those living with dementia.
“We have been supporting the Dementia Friends programme since its launch in 2013 and now have over 23,500 colleagues across Great Britain who are Dementia Friends. With at least one* Dementia Friend in every one of our stores across Great Britain, we can help make sure those living with dementia and their families find information, advice, support and understanding when they need it.”
Launching in Dementia Action Week, Boots has created resources available online and in store to offer information and advice about dementia as well as tips on creating memory boxes – visit www.boots.com/dementia-friends or pick up a Living with Dementia guide in store.