Nasrin Eileen

An Interior (detail). Harriet Osborne O'Hagen, 1948 © National Gallery of Ireland

Nasrin is a 59-year-old with Down’s syndrome, whose Alzheimer’s started having a significant impact 18 months ago.

Nasrin always had a strong sense of place: she enjoyed attending her centres and her clubs and always brought back pictures, postcards and a T-shirt from her travels. At home, her bedroom was her fiefdom and she was obsessive about arrangements: curtains had to be closed at a certain time, and she could not leave the room until pillows and cushions were to her satisfaction. It was important that she was the last one out and she always closed the door herself. While visitors to her room were tolerated, a wary eye was kept lest they sit on her bed or enter uninvited.

As her Alzheimer’s progressed, Nasrin increasingly stayed in bed and lost interest in the rest of the house. Upon moving to a nursing home, she reacted well to her new bedroom, which was furnished with her own items. Initially she was happy to visit home, and referred to the house as her ‘old house’. At this stage she still checked on her bedroom during home visits but did not fuss about leaving it. Just three weeks after leaving home – and having visited each day over the Christmas period – she reacted very aggressively to a visit to the ‘old house’. She screamed in her bedroom and was only pacified when she could return to the nursing home. For four months, she could not be persuaded to return home, though she would accompany her family to other houses.

Nasrin’s favourite places now are shopping centres and parks. She no longer gives instructions about her room, but she enjoys looking at her pictures and the butterfly images that adorn the walls. Initially she refused TV or music; she tolerates the sound now. Nasrin occasionally asks for her curtains to be closed. She does not show much interest in the rest of the nursing home, but can be persuaded to take some walks along the corridors. She has responded well to spending a day a week at her old day centre and taking part in the trips. She is content in her room and will lie in her bed quite relaxed.