Memory loss and dementia may seem synonymous. However, it’s crucial to realize that long-term memory often remains intact long into the progression of the disease. That is why tapping into those distant memories is a good strategy to help a senior with dementia stay engaged in present conversations by connecting to the past.
Known as reminiscence therapy, these walks down memory lane help seniors:
- 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 numerous accomplishments they’ve made and the lives they have impacted
- Minimize some of the negative effects of dementia, such as restlessness, wandering, anger, and much more
Implementing reminiscence therapy for dementia doesn’t have to be elaborate. Begin with cracking open a scrapbook and simply looking at photographs together. Let the person drive the next steps. If a specific photograph sparks a memory and they want to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they might like. If, instead, they choose to simply view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to make sure they are remaining relaxed and calm.
In the same way photos can bring happy memories to the surface, they could also remind the person of loved ones lost, or of an especially difficult time in their life. If you find that the activity invokes agitation, close the book and move on to something else. It may take a little coaxing to change gears if 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 a different memory from a period you know was a positive experience for the older adult.
Other ideas for reminiscing include:
- Making a recipe the person especially enjoys and eating it together
- Smelling familiar scents that could invoke a positive memory for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a child, a particular brand of shampoo, bubble bath, or soap they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
- Listening to favorite music from the past
- Engaging 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! Our trained professionals have more ideas and training for effective reminiscence therapy that can help an older adult you love live life to the fullest. Contact JFS Care at 213-383-2273 for more information about options for home care services in Santa Monica and surrounding areas or to schedule a free in-home consultation. Please see our full service area.