Reminiscing in Dementia: How to Spark Memories and Instill Joy
Memory loss and dementia may seem synonymous. Yet it’s crucial to understand that long-term memory frequently remains intact long into the progression of the disease. For this reason, tapping into those distant memories is a good way to help an older adult with Alzheimer’s stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past. Reminiscing in dementia can help older adults:
- Better connect to others through sharing stories
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the numerous accomplishments they have made as well as the lives they’ve impacted
- Minimize some of the adverse effects of Alzheimer’s, such as restlessness, wandering, agitation, and more
- Reduce negative emotions and stress by shifting the focus to happier times
Reminiscing in dementia, also known as reminiscence therapy, doesn’t have to be elaborate. Begin by cracking open a photo album and simply looking at pictures together. Then let the person drive the next steps. If a specific picture sparks a memory and the older adult would like to share that, keep the conversation going as long as they would like. If they choose instead to view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while assessing the person’s expression to make certain they are relaxed and calm.
Just as photos can bring enjoyable memories to the surface, they can also remind the senior of friends and family members they have lost, or of a particularly hard time in their life. If the activity invokes agitation, close the book and move on to something else. It may take a little coaxing to switch gears if the person seems distraught. Moving to another 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 reminiscing include:
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents that could have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a child, a specific brand of shampoo, soap, or bubble bath they used to use to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
- Listening to favorite songs from the past
- Making a recipe the person particularly enjoys and eating it together
- Engaging in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting nuts and bolts or buttons, filing papers, knitting, painting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
Let our creative dementia care team help! We have plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that will help a senior you love live life to the fullest. Reach out to us at (866) 940-4343 to learn more about our specialized dementia care in Novato, Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, and the surrounding areas.