Reminiscence is the recollections of memories of the past. In caring for our seniors, it can be a very important and often overlooked aspect of homecare. It is considered to be beneficial to a person’s inner self and interpersonal skills – especially for people effected by dementia.
Reminiscence is important with these individuals because their long-term memory is typically the last to diminish. By talking about and remembering personal experiences from the past – even back to childhood – it allows older adults with dementia to gain more confidence in social situations and helps them maintain verbal skills. Reminiscence gives elders a chance to reflect on who they are, what they’ve accomplished in their lives, and a chance to re-live happy times.
Reminiscence can be a powerful tool for caregivers and family members. Here are some helpful “tools” you can use:
- Be prepared. Have topics or stories in mind in advance. Know that reminiscing may engender happiness or sadness in the person – or both. This is not a bad thing. If feelings become difficult, validate them, then gently move on to a different topic or activity. Be supportive.
- Check the environment. Make sure the place you are doing the reminiscing is conducive to conversation. A quiet, low-stimulation environment is best. Turn off the TV and minimize background noise. Make sure lighting is adequate.
- Be present. Sit at eye level, turn off your cell phone, and avoid distractions. Actively listen and take the conversation wherever s/he wants to take it. Don’t rush, and allow the person to take the time to gather their thoughts and express themselves.
- Use props. Use old photos, articles, videos, or audio recordings to spark memories. Music can be an amazing way to bring back happy feelings from the past and old photo albums can bring hours of reflection and enjoyment. Incorporate using the senses and be creative by baking some cookies or lighting some candles.
- Accept loss. People with dementia lose memories over time. Once the memories are gone, they’re gone forever. If you recognize the a memory is no longer there, accept that it’s gone and focus on the memories that remain.
- Don’t force it. Know that some people may not want to reminisce about the past. It’s okay. Accept this and move on. The person may be willing to reminisce at a later time.
If you need some ideas about topics to discuss visit www.goodolddaysstories.com . This site has some great audio stories and even sheet music that would be especially good to use with the client if you have a laptop.
Here is a simple “just for starters” list of potential topics:
- – childhood home
- – childhood songs and games
- – family life
- – pets
- – the town they grew up in
- – childhood disasters
- – Christmas or other holidays and how they were celebrated
- – favorite foods
- – radio, music, dance
- – cars or other forms of transportation
- – special friendships
- – the great depression
- – life during wartime
- – love, marriage
- – presidents
- – look at pictures
- – listen to music
On final tip: At the online store Best Alzheimer’s Products, you can even purchase memory games like “Shake Loose a Memory.” These games are a fun and easy approach to unlock meaningful memories and real-life experiences.
If you would like to learn more about reminiscing, or anything related to health and happy aging-in-place here in Connecticut, contact us. We can help. It’s what we do.