Who doesn’t enjoy thinking back on good memories? People of all ages delight in sharing their most cherished memories, looking at old photos, holding treasured objects, and singing songs they once adored. This simple activity is especially helpful for people with cognitive disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s, which is why healthcare professionals sometimes recommend reminiscence therapy. This form of therapy stimulates the person’s thoughts and memories by provoking the five senses (sound, touch, smell, sight, and taste). To learn more about the benefits of reminiscence therapy, please scroll down.
How Reminiscence Therapy Works
Interested in trying reminiscence therapy with a friend or loved one? It’s easy to do. Using conversation and storytelling, you’re aiming to stimulate the person’s long-term memory and listen as they recall details and events from their past. You may wish to use something to prompt the conversation, such as a photo, a token, a song, a special food, or an activity. The goal should be to help the person feel valued and peaceful and remind them of their identity.
It’s important to remember that reminiscing should not be a difficult challenge. The person should not be put on the spot and asked to remember something specific, as the pressure and stress of the situation may make them feel worse. Instead, the person should feel free to share any pleasant memories that pop into their head. This is why photos are so useful. Instead of asking a person, “Where did you grow up?”, you could simply show them a picture of their childhood house and wait to see if they wish to share something. Or, you could talk about a personal memory that doesn’t involve the person and wait to see if that sparks a personal memory for them.
Sometimes reminiscence therapy won’t prompt any memories at all. If this happens, it’s A-okay. Don’t put any pressure on the person. They still may enjoy the therapy, even if it didn’t stimulate a memory. But most of the time, some memories will arise and the person may enjoy the following benefits of reminiscence therapy:
The Benefits of Reminiscence Therapy
It exercises the brain and communication skills.
Remembering isn’t easy. W hen a person remembers something from their past, they’re exercising their brain muscles to access those memories. This may improve their ability to focus and recall memories, which can help them in their daily life. In addition, to tell the story clearly, the person must exercise their communication skills, and this can also improve the person’s day-to-day interactions.
It makes the person feel valued and heard.
Sometimes seniors feel ignored or neglected. Talking with someone about memories from childhood and young adulthood may give a person the chance to talk about the things they find meaningful. It may boost their confidence, provide relief from boredom or loneliness, and give them a chance to contribute to a conversation instead of simply listen. By helping a person connect with their past and the wider world, reminiscence therapy may also improve a person’s sense of self-worth and help them feel like an important part of their family and community.
It may strengthen relationships.
Reminiscing with loved ones can be especially beneficial. It may strengthen the bonds between family members or friends, helping them open up to one another and grow closer. Discussing shared experiences can help both people feel understood and connected. Finally, when seniors share memories with younger generations, they’re helping to preserve family stories so that they aren’t forgotten.
It can spark joy.
Talking about happy memories is an easy way to feel joyful, and it can help boost a person’s mood and reduce their stress levels as well. Sometimes the memories will lead to a wider conversation, which is always a nice bonus.
Of course, there is always a risk that painful or unhappy memories will surface. If this happens, it’s important to respond with kindness and understanding. Listen patiently and then steer the person toward a happy memory so that they don’t end the session feeling distressed.
People suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia sometimes feel like their past is lost in a fog. Reminiscence therapy can help bring those cherished memories into the light, where they can comfort the person and bring them joy.
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