How Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia Can Improve Senior Engagement

One of the best ways to help seniors take a walk down memory lane is to implement reminiscence therapy for dementia.

Memory loss and Alzheimer’s may seem synonymous. Yet it is important to realize that long-term memory often remains intact long into the progression of the disease. That is why tapping into those distant memories is a great way to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past through reminiscing.

Known as reminiscence therapy for dementia, these walks down memory lane help older adults:

  • Better connect to others through sharing stories
  • Decrease stress and negative emotions by shifting the focus to happier times
  • Minimize some of the negative effects of Alzheimer’s, such as restlessness, anger, wandering, and more
  • Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the many accomplishments they have made as well as the lives they’ve impacted 

Implementing reminiscence therapy doesn’t have to be elaborate. Start with cracking open a scrapbook and simply looking at pictures together. Let the person drive the next steps. If a certain photograph sparks a memory and the senior wants to share that, keep the conversation going as long as they would like. If they choose instead to view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while assessing the person’s expression to ensure they are relaxed and calm. 

In the same way photos can bring agreeable memories to the surface, they can also remind the person of friends and family 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 might take a little coaxing to change gears if the person seems distraught. Moving to another location, such as outdoors or to the kitchen for a snack, can help. Or try bringing up a different memory from a period of time you know was a positive experience for the senior. 

Other ideas for reminiscing include:

  • Smelling familiar, enjoyable scents which could have meaning for the person: freshly mowed grass, flowers that grew around their family home as a young child, a specific brand of shampoo, bubble bath, or soap they used to bathe the kids when they were little, etc.
  • Listening to favorite music from the past
  • Making a recipe the person particularly enjoys and eating it together
  • Engaging in an ability-appropriate activity that holds meaning to the past: sorting buttons or nuts and bolts, filing papers, knitting, painting, playing a musical instrument, etc.

Let our creative dementia care team help! We have plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy that will help a senior you love live life to the fullest. Contact us online or call 250.950.8098 to find out more about our services and caregivers in Victoria, BC and surrounding areas.