How to Use Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia with a Senior Loved One

Reminiscence therapy can bring joy and confidence to a senior experiencing dementia.

Memory loss and dementia may seem synonymous. Yet it’s important to realize 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 strategy to help a senior with dementia stay engaged in current conversations by connecting to the past. That is where reminiscence therapy for dementia can help. 

Reminiscence therapy can help seniors experiencing dementia:

  • Better connect to others through sharing stories
  • Instill self-confidence by bringing to mind the countless accomplishments they have made and the lives they’ve impacted 
  • Decrease negative emotions and stress by shifting the focus to happier times
  • Minimize some of the adverse effects of dementia, for example , restlessness, anger, wandering, and much more

Implementing reminiscence therapy does not have to be elaborate. Begin by opening a photo album and simply looking at photographs together. Let the person drive your time together. If a specific picture sparks a memory and the senior would like to share that, keep the discussion going as long as they might like. If they choose instead to simply view the photographs silently, you can do the same, while assessing the person’s expression to ensure they are calm and relaxed. 

Just as photos can bring enjoyable memories to the surface, they could also remind the person of friends and family lost or of an especially difficult time in their life. In the event that the activity invokes agitation, close the book and move on to something else. It might take just a little coaxing to change 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Making a recipe the older adult especially enjoys and eating it together
  • Listening to favorite music from the past

Let our creative dementia care team help! We’ve got plenty of ideas for effective reminiscence therapy for dementia that can help a senior you love live life to the fullest. Reach out to us at 919-426-7522 for more information on our services regarding dementia care in Apex, NC & the throughout the Triangle.