Reminiscing for Better Health & to Fend off Dementia
How Reminiscing can benefit the Elderly with Dementia
The beginning stages of Dementia or Alzheimer’s are frightening. Suddenly losing track of time, forgetting where you placed things, getting lost in a familiar place, forgetting the names of people, losing track of conversations midway... These sudden changes can make anyone feel confused and inadequate. For the elderly with dementia, these situations put them in a deep sense of frustration, as words and thoughts start choking up and stop flowing smoothly.
Reminiscence Therapy allows the elderly with dementia to be engaged in a form of communication in an emotionally healthy manner. Narrating memorable stories can help trigger cherished memories from the past, and allow them to relive happy moments and interact with their loved ones. Remember, a good story is magical. It can energize a person and fire their imagination. It allows for a wonderful connection for those with dementia and their loved ones. It may be in the form of favourite songs, old family photographs, or meaningful objects that can unlock feelings, emotions, and memories.
One thing that should be avoided is to not ask those who have dementia to remember something/someone from the past with the purpose of testing their memory. For example, when someone visits your mum who has dementia, do not ask her “Mum, do you remember this person? Do you know who this is?” If they don’t remember the person, then the feeling of embarrassment creeps in, and the patient might feel frustrated and end up in a negative mood. Instead, introduce the visitor by name- “Mum, Aunty Catherine has come here to see you”. You will be able to see the immediate reaction of recognition and a smile on your mother’s face, rather than being confused or perplexed.
Here are some other benefits of Reminiscence Therapy:
- Improves self-worth and quality of life of seniors with dementia. Giving them the means to remember their past and recall happy times gives them peace, making them feel content and valued.
- Improves mood and encourages positive behavior. The positive boost that seniors receive from reminiscence therapy helps reduce stress, improves their mood, and reduces unwanted behaviours like wandering away, feeling anxious, agitated and more.
- Encourages participation. Reminiscence therapy provides opportunities for seniors to talk and share meaningful things, instead of simply listening to others talk. Just because our loved ones have dementia, we tend to talk more and take over the conversations and leave them side-lined at most times.
- Creates joy. Talking about happy memories from the past provides a sense of joy. Digging deep into their past and bringing out old stories from their treasured memories will have the conversation flowing, reducing boredom and depression. Do not worry about repeating the stories, and allow them to relive their happiest moments.
- Provides opportunities to connect. Both patient and caregivers can benefit from reminiscence therapy. Family stories can be preserved for later generations, and family members may learn something new about their loved ones.
The following questions are great conversation starters-
- Do you remember where you lived when you were a child?
- Tell me about that great family holiday you went to!
- How did you meet your wife? Where was she from?
- Tell me about your wedding day!
Can you tell me about your best friend?
As they start to open up and talk, it’s important to be a good and intent listener. Keep asking questions to encourage them to open up more. Almost everyone enjoys talking about themselves and sharing life’s experiences.
It isn’t easy to watch someone slip away. But there are ways to find them. Connect with them and start on this journey of reminiscing together.