Memory loss and dementia might seem synonymous. On the contrary, though, long-term memory often stays intact far into the progression of the disease. Because of this, tapping into those distant memories is an ideal way to help a senior with dementia stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past.
These walks down memory lane, known as reminiscence therapy, can help older adults:
Decrease stress and negative emotions by shifting the focus to happier times
Better connect with others through sharing stories
Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the many accomplishments they have made and the lives they’ve impacted
Minimize some of the adverse effects of dementia, for example, restlessness, wandering, anger, and more
Using reminiscence therapy for dementia doesn’t have to be a complex process. Begin with cracking open a photo album and simply looking at photographs together. Let the person drive the next steps. If a specific photograph sparks a memory and the older adult would like to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they would like. They may choose to look at the photos silently, and you can do the same while staying aware of the person’s expression to make certain they are calm and relaxed.
Just as photos can bring enjoyable memories to the surface, they can also remind the person of loved ones lost, or of a particularly hard time in their life. If this activity brings up negative feelings, close the book and move on to something else. It could take just a little coaxing to change gears in the event that the person seems distraught. It’s often helpful to move to a different location, such as outdoors or to the kitchen for a snack. Or try bringing up another memory from a period you know was a positive experience for the older adult.
Other ideas for reminiscing include:
Making a recipe the older adult especially enjoys and eating it together
Listening to favorite songs from the past
Engage in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting buttons or nuts and bolts, filing papers, painting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents that may have meaning for the person: newly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a young child, a particular brand of shampoo, bubble bath, or soap they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
If you’re thinking about using reminiscence therapy for dementia, let our creative dementia care team help! Our Alzheimer’s care in Toronto and the surrounding areas offers plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy for dementia, which will help an older adult you love live life to the fullest. Contact us online or at 416-422-2273 to learn more about our services.