If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, trying to recall memories can be frustrating. However, reminiscence therapy can be an enjoyable activity for all involved. Whether it helps improve memory or cognition is not clear, but it certainly stimulates the senses, and can sometimes spark memories. Studies show it improves quality of life and can help ease depression.
During reminiscence therapy, images, sounds, textures, tastes, and objects are introduced, and then dementia patients and their caregivers engage in conversation about their experiences. Here are some examples of reminiscence therapy “prompts” that not only get the conversation flowing—they can also bring your elderly loved one joy.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to go searching for your loved one’s long-lost blanket or doll. Any simple toy can help start the conversation. These toys aren’t used as playthings, but as objects that represent experiences in a person’s life. For instance, bring in a toy truck and all sorts of memories can be spurred—the time they helped a child play with one just like it, or the time they drove a life-sized one.
Have you ever heard a tune from your teenage years and were surprised that you still knew all the lyrics? Music has deep emotional connections for us all, including those with Alzheimer’s. Hearing an old favorite song can have such a powerful effect on seniors, it’s become a form of therapy in its own right, especially for those in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.
Looking over old family photos can be difficult, especially if your senior struggles with recognizing faces. Instead, look for images that don’t have specific personal significance, but are of familiar or important places. For instance, did your loved one enjoy going on beach vacations every summer when they were younger? Share a picture book about a beach trip, and watch their face light up.
For many seniors, religion is a matter very close to their hearts. Spiritual music, religious icons, and readings from sacred texts can be incredibly fulfilling for seniors with dementia who otherwise have difficulty connecting.
From the youngest to the eldest among us, we all have the capacity to be fascinated and awed by nature. You don’t have to take the senior you care for on a hike—you can always bring nature to them, in the form of leaves, textured bark or driftwood, pebbles, feathers, and more.
These are just a few suggestions for reminiscence therapy. Looking for more ideas? Consider each of your senses and the ways in which your own memories are recalled every day. Tasting a favorite treat, smelling a favorite flower, watching an old favorite movie, or performing a task that’s set in muscle memory, like kneading dough, are all experiences that won’t just potentially spark memories—they’re also enjoyable ways to spend time with your loved ones.
For more information about reminiscence therapy and the memory care services we provide at AlmaVia of San Rafael, call 415-491-1900 or visit almaviaofsanrafael.org.