Reminiscence therapy uses the senses to help individuals with dementia remember events, people, and places from the past, and can be useful in reducing negative emotions.
Those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia might find themselves losing their short-term memory, but are often able to recall older ones. Because of this, using old photographs, treasured keepsakes, and old shows and music can be a good way of simulating fond thoughts in the person with dementia, creating opportunities for caregivers to connect with them.
This act of sharing memories from the past forms the basis of reminiscence therapy, which aims to help persons with dementia feel valued, contented, and peaceful through the recollection of pleasant memories. The positive feelings that result can decrease stress, reduce agitation, as well as help to reduce challenging behaviours like wandering and anger.
The Power Of Recollection
With minimal prompting like old photos, classic tunes, or simple questions, those with dementia may recall memories from their childhood and young adulthood. Being able to reminisce about these moments can help those with dementia to feel more confident in their abilities; it gives them the opportunity to talk and share what’s meaningful to them instead of just listening to others.
Being able to talk about these happy memories can also help to create feelings of joy, which help your loved ones to cope better with the stress and frustrations that they encounter each day.
How To Reminisce
There are several activities that are great for reminiscing. Playing music that they loved is one recommended method, especially with how research has shown that music can reach even those with advanced dementia. You can also bring out old photos, keepsakes, or even magazines that remind the person with dementia of their hobbies. Engaging the sense of smell through familiar scents, tasting favourite dishes, or enjoying tactile activities like painting or crafts are also activities that are suitable for reminiscence therapy.
To achieve better results, it’s important to note that there’s a difference between reminiscence and the act of remembering. Expecting your loved one to remember something specific can backfire and become a stressful experience due to the pressure that they feel. Asking the person with dementia a question like “Where was your childhood home?” when they might not know how to answer can leave them feeling embarrassed and agitated.
In contrast, reminiscence therapy creates opportunities for the pleasant memories to naturally come to mind. While looking through some old photographs, you can share stories from your childhood, and if the interaction draws out the memory of their past, they’ll find it easier to add to the conversation.
How To Reminisce
Of course, you’ll never really know which memories surface when reminiscing. At times, a painful and unhappy memory will be recalled. This is not a bad thing, but it’s important that you respond to your loved one with kindness and understanding. Based on what you know about your loved one, you might want to continue listening, offering emotional support and encouragement, or to steer them towards a happier memory.
Sometimes, your loved one might not recall any memories during the activity. This is perfectly fine, and you should not feel pressured or stressed. You can try again with the same activity, or try doing something else next time. For now, enjoy the time you’ve spent with your loved one.