Written by Active Minds on Thursday the 25th of February 2016.
Alongside hobbies and physical exercise, reminiscence is – or should be – a key part of a person with dementia’s life. Not only do reminiscence activities help to stir happy memories and exercise recollection muscles, they can also help a person regain a sense of identity and self-confidence, encourage stimulation and creativity and help to fight against feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If you want to conduct a reminiscence session with your loved one, here are some top tips on how to go about it.
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to get together an idea of what you’d like to do during your session. If you’re planning a one-to-one session, creating or opening a memory box together can be a great reminiscence activity. Memory boxes can be tailored towards an individual’s personal history, life, hobbies or special memories so they’re a good idea if you’re planning a session with a family member or a loved one. If you’re planning a group session, something more inclusive such as reminiscence films and DVDs is more likely to be effective.
Try to make the session as stimulating as possible. Appealing to different senses is a good idea as you might find that your loved one has a more positive reaction to certain sensory stimulation. Try using images like the pictures on reminiscence cards alongside sounds such a favourite piece of music or familiar noise, tastes such as favourite foods or drinks, or the touch of a familiar fabric or memento. The more varied you can keep the session, the more stimulating and enjoyable it will be.
A huge part of any successful reminiscence session is the attitude of the person leading it. You should go into any session prepared to listen and to be as receptive as possible. You can be encouraging but don’t ask too many questions at once or put any pressure on the person with dementia. Showing your loved one that you’re interested in what they have to say will help them feel more comfortable as well as confident. Be prepared to be adaptable as well; if a certain technique or stimulus isn’t working, have other fun and relevant ideas ready and be understanding and patient if the session isn’t working for your loved one or they don’t want to take part on that particular day.
Remember that a reminiscence session can be just as much fun and just as interesting for you as it is for your loved one. Finding out about the past through the eyes of a family member can be fascinating so make sure you allow yourself to enjoy it. Don’t forget to bring your sense of humour either! Laughing over shared happy or hilarious memories can be a real boost for someone with dementia so don’t forget to have a good time.