Memory loss and dementia may seem synonymous. However, it is important to understand that long-term memory often remains intact long 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.
Known as reminiscence therapy, these walks down memory lane help seniors:
- Better connect to others through sharing stories
- Decrease negative emotions and stress by shifting the focus to happier times
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the numerous accomplishments they’ve made as well as the lives they have impacted
- Minimize some of the adverse effects of Alzheimer’s, such as restlessness, anger, wandering, and more
Implementing reminiscence therapy for dementia does not have to be elaborate. Begin by cracking open a scrapbook and simply looking at photographs together. Let the person drive the following 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 might like. If they choose instead to just view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to make certain they are relaxed and calm.
Just as photos can bring agreeable memories to the surface, they could also remind the person of loved ones lost or of an especially difficult time in their life. If the activity invokes anxiety, close the book and move on to something else. It could take a little coaxing to switch gears in the event that the person seems distraught. Moving to another location, such as outdoors or to the kitchen for a snack, can help. Or try bringing up an alternative memory from an occasion you know was a positive experience for the senior.
Other ideas for reminiscing include:
- Making a recipe the person particularly enjoys and eating it together
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents, which could have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a child, a specific brand of shampoo, bubble bath, or soap they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
- Engage in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting buttons or nuts and bolts, filing papers, knitting, painting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
- Listening to favorite music from the past
Let our creative experts in dementia care in Battle Creek, MI and surrounding areas help! We have lots of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that will help an older adult you love live life to the fullest. Reach out to us more information either online or at (866) 229-2505.