Memory loss and Alzheimer’s may seem synonymous. Yet 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 an ideal strategy to help an older adult with dementia stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past.
Known as reminiscence therapy for dementia patients, these walks down memory lane help older adults:
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the countless accomplishments they’ve made in addition to the lives they’ve impacted
- Better connect with others through sharing stories
- Cut down stress and negative emotions by shifting the focus to happier times
- Minimize some of the adverse effects of dementia, like restlessness, anger, wandering, and much more
Implementing reminiscence therapy for dementia patients doesn’t have to be elaborate. Begin with cracking open a scrapbook and simply looking at photographs together. Let the person drive the following steps. If a specific picture sparks a memory and the older adult wants to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they might like. If they choose instead to view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to make sure they are calm and relaxed.
Just as photos can bring agreeable memories to the surface, they could also remind the person of friends and family lost, or of an especially hard time in their life. In the event that the activity invokes anxiety, 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 another 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.
Other ideas for reminiscing include:
- Engage 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.
- Making a recipe the senior especially enjoys and eating it together
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents which could have meaning for the person: newly 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
Let CareWorks Health Services’ creative dementia care team help! We have plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy which will help an older adult live life to the fullest. Contact us at (949) 859-4700 for more information about our home and dementia care services in Huntington Beach and nearby communities.