Liz Thomas had a great idea for an event at Amber Grove Memory Care in Chico, California. Why not gather together all the vintage wedding gowns of residents and staff and share them in a special wedding dress show? Liz, a friend of the mother of Brenda Reitz (Life Engagement Director at Amber Grove), is well into her 80’s. So, she had her own vintage wedding gown to share, as well as a pair of hand-made leather shoes and gloves. The idea was enthusiastically received by all.
Between residents and staff about a dozen dresses were collected. Liz and some of the staff members strolled around the room sharing each dress with residents who were able to reach out and feel the soft texture of vintage lace and beading. Liz also shared some beautiful photographs of wedding gowns from the 20’s and 30’s, an era many of the residents lived through and had fond memories of. One of the staff members even modeled a dress, twirling around to show it off, to the delight of the residents. And they all shared a laugh as a visiting Chico State nursing student struggled to fit into a vintage tuxedo. They even included an array of wedding photos of residents and played a “guess the resident” game.
There are some amazing stories behind the dresses, one dating back to the 1890's! And one of the most poignant moments came when they presented a dress that had survived last year’s devastating fire in Paradise, a town located near Chico. The dress had been stored away in a fabric-covered box. Amazingly it remained untouched, while other belongings stored in plastic melted!
The best part of events like these are the memories that are rekindled when we share mementos of the past with loved ones who struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. An event a simple as a vintage fashion show can turn into something quite remarkable for residents and their families as they come together and enjoy each other’s company while they chat about memories which are often fleeting, but still alive within the residents.
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, put some time aside to pull out some old family mementos and photographs. In addition to it being a soothing pastime for both of you, it very well may rekindle a memory or two!