I once visited a new nursing home in the Midwest. I was on a tour when we arrived on a floor that was so brightly lit, it took me a minute to get used to it. Then, I passed an open lounge area that had a washer and dryer and a big table full of different sized towels dumped on it—all different colors and sizes and materials, but all square. They were next to an empty laundry basket. This seemed really strange to me since there was a huge laundry room in the basement and a staff that took care of all linens and clothes. Much to my surprise, a resident walked by, looked at the laundry, folded it all and put it into the basket. As soon as she walked away, the staff person I was with dumped the laundry back out of the basket and onto the table.

By now, my puzzlement must have been obvious, because the staff member finally ‘fessed up. We were on the dementia floor. The brighter, ambient light makes the residents less agitated, and the activity of folding laundry stimulates their minds using different textures, etc, in an activity they still remember. The washer and dryer? Fakes. I admit I was skeptical, but when I spoke to the residents on the floor about their day and activities, they told me they had done the laundry. I
was amazed so many of these residents could discuss the laundry with me. They talked about colors. Then, they talked about how they used to do laundry without the help of the fancy machines. Really, they got a lot of pleasure out of it!