We take it for granted that memory loss comes with dementia. Yet it’s important to realize that long-term memory often remains intact long into the progression of the disease. So, helping someone with dementia tap into those old memories is a great 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:
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the many accomplishments they’ve made and the lives they’ve impacted
- Reduce stress and negative emotions by shifting the focus to happier times
- Minimize some of the negative effects of dementia, such as restlessness, anger, wandering, and more
- Better connect to others through sharing stories
Using reminiscence therapy doesn’t have to be an overly complex process. Begin by cracking open a photo album and simply looking at pictures together. Let the person drive the next steps. If a particular photo sparks a memory and the senior wants to share that, keep the conversation going as long as they would like. If they choose instead to simply view the pictures silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to ensure they are calm and relaxed.
Just as photos can bring pleasant memories to the surface, they can also remind the person of loved ones lost, or of a particularly difficult time in their life. If the activity invokes agitation, close the book and move on to something else. You may have to do a little convincing if the person seems particularly disturbed. Moving to a different location, such as outdoors or to the kitchen for a snack, can help. Or try bringing up a different memory from a time you know was a positive experience for the senior.
Other ideas for reminiscence therapy include:
- Making a recipe the person especially enjoys and eating it together
- Listening to favorite music from the past
- Engage in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting nuts and bolts or buttons, filing papers, painting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents that may have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a child, a particular brand of shampoo, soap, or bubble bath they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
Let our creative dementia care team help! As a part of our elder care in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, we’ve got plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that will help a senior you love live life to the fullest. Contact us online or at 404-228-0103 to learn more.