Reminiscence therapy is one of the most effective and popular therapies for people who have Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. It is a non-pharmacological therapy adapted to the memory impairment characteristic of people with dementia, as they often have difficulty remembering recent events but do recall their past.
Reminiscence therapy involves the use of everyday objects, sounds, photographs, familiar places, and other items that help the person with dementia to remember past events or experiences. Reminiscence therapy has proven benefits for people with dementia by focusing on preserved memories, promoting communication, and helping the person to connect with their past and regain a sense of personal identity. Reminiscence therapy sessions can be conducted in groups or individually and can be led by a specialist or by the person’s caregiver or relatives.
The importance of remembering
Memory helps us to define our lives and to know who we are. People with dementia suffer from a decline in memory, leading to a progressive loss of self-awareness, and thus a loss of a sense of identity.
People with dementia typically forget their most recent memories first, and over time their long-term memory weakens and causes them to lose perspective on their own biographies altogether. When the person is unable to recall memories, they also lose their sense of context for who they are, and their identity is affected. The loss of memory can also cause the person to feel confused and frustrated, leading to general discomfort and affecting their mental health and character. Dementia is progressive and has different stages, and knowing these stages will help you to provide better care and adapt to your loved one.
Reminiscence therapy helps to strengthen episodic memory, and helps the person to be able to recognise themselves and evoke past images and experiences, thus helping to restore their sense of identity. This contributes positively to their mental and emotional stability, and can decrease confusion and frustration. Read on to discover other benefits of reminiscence therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
Benefits of reminiscence therapy for people with cognitive impairment
A good level of self-esteem is essential to maintain a sense of well-being and satisfaction. Self-esteem problems can be present in any person regardless of age and condition, but people with dementia tend to have self-esteem difficulties. This is because they suffer from a cognitive impairment that affects their daily life, and interferes with the way of life they used to have, causing them to lose their sense of self-worth.
Self-esteem is important at all stages of our lives, but is especially important for older people’s mental health. Reminiscence therapy positively affects the self-esteem of people with dementia, increasing their sense of well-being. They participate in conversations, feel listened to and valued, boosting their self-esteem. Reminiscence helps them feel confident and capable again, accept themselves, and focus on their abilities, not on their impairments. This affirmation of self-worth increases our loved one’s quality of life, which has numerous collateral benefits.
Improves communication skills
People living with dementia experience changes in the brain’s temporal lobe that affect their ability to process language. A common symptom of dementia is that the person confuses words, is unable to find the right word to use, or struggles to finish sentences. Reminiscence therapy sessions encourage conversation, and therefore the person with dementia has to make an effort to remember stories and recount them, which helps to exercise their communication skills and can have positive results in their daily interactions.
As mentioned earlier, people who do not remember their personal history have an impaired sense of identity. It can be very confusing for them to not remember who they are or what they have experienced without perspective on their life events. Reminiscence therapy helps people to bring order and meaning to the experiences in their lives that they felt were chaotic and meaningless without the context that memory provides.
Enhancing interpersonal and family relationships
Reminiscence sessions with loved ones are particularly beneficial in reinforcing the bonds between the person with dementia and their significant others. A reminiscence session with your loved one with dementia is an excellent opportunity to bring you closer together again, creating new bonds and strengthening existing ones. Remembering stories, events, or moments together allows you to open up to each other, re-live things together, and get to know part of the other person’s story that you didn’t know before. You will have the opportunity to create a beautiful bond and a safe environment where you can share things about each other’s lives.
This makes both of you feel listened to, valued, and loved and allows for interesting conversation topics to emerge from those memories while helping to preserve family histories from being lost.
If reminiscence therapy is carried out in a group, it will help the person to socialise and open up to new relationships, as well as actively participate in collective conversations and make them feel part of a group. Socialising is a good way to break isolation and boredom, and reminiscence therapy sessions can become a safe place to spend quality time, have fun, make new friends and connect with people.
Improves overall well-being
Reminiscence therapy helps people feel listened to and valued and provides a boost to their mood. Reminiscence sessions are usually pleasant, cheerful, and even fun experiences in which they remember and recount events and stories that are significant to them.
Reminiscence therapy sessions help to lift the mood of people with dementia, as they are a positive and enjoyable experience in which the person recalls and relives memories that made them happy or proud. In addition, sharing their experiences with others and actively engaging in conversation and socialising greatly boosts their mood, reducing depressive symptoms and behavioural disorders.
Implementing reminiscence therapy for dementia at home
Reminiscence therapy can be done in a group or individually guided by a professional, or you can practice reminiscence with your loved one at home, as no formal training is required. Including reminiscence in everyday activities is beneficial for both the person with dementia and their caregiver or loved one. Activities should be adapted to the individual, considering their abilities and limitations. Here are some ideas for reminiscence activities you can do with your loved one:
Incorporate objects, music or images into everyday activities
Strategies for incorporating reminiscence into everyday activities may include:
- Provide the person with a familiar object during daily hygiene routines.
- Playing their favourite music from a particular time period to accompany daily activities, such as eating lunch or taking a bath.
- Hanging meaningful pictures around their home or adding decorative elements that take them back to another place, time or environment.
- During caregiving, talking to the person about their past interests and memories to make everyday tasks more pleasant and enjoyable.
Create memory boxes
These boxes contain items that are relevant to the person. To collect these meaningful items, you can talk with the person and their family members and friends to help them choose relevant items. When selecting these items, keep in mind some basic safety precautions for the memory box, such as not using fragile or high-value items. Memory boxes, apart from helping to bring back memories, can be a good conversation starter for talking to the person with dementia, so all visitors can use them.
Engage in activities such as painting, pottery or other crafts
Touch also comes into play when it comes to remembering. Activities that involve the sense of touch, such as drawing, painting, pottery, knitting, sewing, or other crafts, can bring back old memories for a person with dementia. If they can no longer perform these activities as they used to, you can find a way to adapt the activity to their current possibilities.
Go through old photos
An album of photographs from their childhood or young adulthood years can evoke pleasant memories, events, and feelings from the past for your loved one. Going through old photos can lead to interesting conversations such as talking about past holidays, places visited, or family members who were important to the person.
Reminiscence therapy is one of the most widely used therapies for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as it brings countless benefits. In groups or individually, people who do reminiscence experience a reduction in stress, increased self-esteem, improved communication skills and stronger bonds with their loved ones and caregivers.
The CareSide provides care for people with dementia and offers the best care tailored to each individual. If you would like to know more about our services, please contact us.