April 13, 2022
Memory loss and dementia might seem synonymous. However, it is crucial to realize that long-term memory frequently remains intact long into the progression of the disease. For this reason, tapping into those distant memories is a great strategy to help a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past.
Known as reminiscence therapy, these walks down memory lane help older adults:
- Better connect to others through sharing stories
- Reduce stress and negative emotions by shifting the focus to happier times
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the many accomplishments they have made as well as the lives they have impacted
- Minimize some of the negative effects of dementia, for example, restlessness, wandering, anger, and more
Implementing reminiscence therapy does not have to be elaborate. Start with cracking open a scrapbook and simply looking at pictures together. Let the person drive the following steps. If a certain picture sparks a memory and the older adult wants to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they would like. If they choose instead to just view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to make sure they are calm and relaxed.
In the same way photos can bring pleasant memories to the surface, they can also remind the senior 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 change gears in the event that the person seems distraught. Moving to a different location, such as outdoors or to the kitchen for a snack, can help. Or try bringing up an alternative memory from a time you know was a positive experience for the senior.
Continuum, a trusted provider of help at home in St. Louis and the surrounding communities, offers other ideas for reminiscing including:
- Making a recipe the older adult particularly enjoys and eating it together
- Listening to favorite music from the past
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents that may have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a young child, a particular brand of shampoo, soap, or bubble bath 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, painting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
Let our creative dementia care team help! We’ve got lots of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that will help a senior you love live life to the fullest. Contact us online or call us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 to learn more.