Memory loss and dementia might seem synonymous. However, it’s crucial to understand that long-term memory often remains intact long into the progression of the disease. For this reason, tapping into those distant memories is an excellent way to help an older adult with Alzheimer’s stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past.
Known as reminiscence therapy for Alzheimer’s, these walks down memory lane help older adults:
- 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 Alzheimer’s, such as restlessness, wandering, anger, and more
- Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the countless accomplishments they have made in addition to lives they’ve impacted
Implementing reminiscence therapy does not need to be elaborate. Begin with opening a photo album and simply taking a look at pictures together. Let the person drive the next steps. If a certain photograph sparks a memory and the older adult would like to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they would like. If they choose instead to view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while gauging the person’s expression to make certain they are relaxed and calm.
Just as photos can bring enjoyable memories to the surface, they can also remind the person of loved ones lost, or of a particularly difficult time in their life. If the activity invokes agitation, close the book and move on to something else. It could take a little coaxing to switch gears in the event that 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 an occasion you know was a positive experience for the older adult.
Other ideas for reminiscing include:
- Listening to favorite songs from the past
- Engage in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting nuts and bolts or buttons, filing papers, painting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, etc.
- Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents that could have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a young child, a particular brand of shampoo, bubble bath, or soap they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
- Making a recipe the older adult particularly enjoys and eating it together
Let Seniorcorp’s creative dementia care team help! We have plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that can help an older adult you love live life to the fullest. Reach out to us at 757-640-0557 to learn more about our home and live in care in Norfolk and the neighboring communities.