Have you ever felt that jolt of a past memory that unexpectedly pops to the front of your mind, perhaps through a song, a smell, or a picture from long ago? For someone with dementia, the strength of long-term memory is especially impactful, as short-term memory weakens. This makes it highly effective to tap into the connection between dementia and reminiscing in a growing trend in creative Alzheimer’s care: reminiscence therapy.
What Is Reminiscence Therapy, and How Can It Help Someone With Dementia?
Reminiscence therapy is a matter of tapping into a person’s past and utilizing that knowledge to spark engagement in the present. If Mom is a retired teacher, for instance, try implementing activities related to her career. You can provide paperwork for her to grade, flashcards to sort, or textbooks to look through together. If Dad used to be an avid golfer, bring out a box of golf balls, tees, and clubs. You may be surprised at the memories these tangible items can invoke, and the stories the person will share.
One extraordinary example of reminiscence therapy is the transformation of a 9,000-square-foot building in Chula Vista, California, into an interactive 1950s town, complete with storefronts like a movie theater, diner, and a medical clinic, all in working operation as they would have been during that era. Further exploration of this incredible facility will lead you to a 1959 T-Bird, large-scale military airplane models, and an office where secretaries are pecking away at manual typewriters.
In reality, this amazing creation is an ultra-engaging adult day/memory care facility. Scott Tarde, CEO, explains, “It definitely made sense to me to create an environment that resonated strongly with people, instead of just four walls and a television.”
Dr. Daniel Bateman, geriatric psychiatrist at the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, concurs: “It’s cutting edge and it’s exciting work. One of the great pieces about the concept is that it really focuses on maintaining the dignity and the humanity of people with dementia, which can often be lost.”
At JFS Care, we understand the connection between dementia and reminiscing. Our caregivers bring creative concepts like these on a smaller scale into the homes of individuals with dementia, with specialized, person-centered, customized care. We get to know each person’s life story, and include those details in our plan of care to ensure that life is lived to the fullest each and every day.