How to create your own Reminiscence Box

Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 24th of May 2016.

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If a loved one is living with dementia, you will know that problems with short-term memory and a difficulty recalling recent events can cause frustration and anxiety. With dementia, it is often memories of earlier life that are easier to recollect and talking about happy times can bring comfort to people living with dementia. Reminiscence activities are designed to explore people’s memories and encourage connections with those living with dementia. Reminiscence boxes are an idea that can help people to immerse themselves in pleasant memories, triggering thoughts and feelings that can help them to communicate better and express themselves. The good news is that reminiscence boxes are really straight-forward, can be put together easily and can produce great results.

Why a Reminiscence Box?

A reminiscence box is a way of physically representing the memories that we all carry with us every day. Being able to record some of the memories that tell a story about a certain time period or important people in our lives can be a way to help people with dementia explore feelings and emotions. Verbal communication can become problematic and questions that someone has difficulty answering can cause anxiety.

Communication can be encouraged when someone is looking through a reminiscence box, as they can talk about the past with more confidence, focus and be actively engaged. People living with dementia can begin to lose sight of their identity; a box can help reinforce a person’s individuality and build their self-esteem, reminding them of past achievements and their life story.

What to put in the box

Everyone is different and you need to keep this in mind when you are planning what to include in a reminiscence box. Selecting items that provoke painful or difficult memories can cause distress and end up dissuading someone from wanting to look through their box. Sticking to items that are related to happier times and fond family members and friends is a good idea, as it will encourage someone to seek out their reminiscence box and revisit it again and again.

You can use objects, images and audio material to evoke memories from someone’s past. This will help to improve a person’s short-term memory by stimulating their long-term memories. You can cover various different themes in the box and could make different boxes for various time periods or locations. Including items that stimulate conversation about family, friends, relationships, achievements, holidays, locations and other significant milestones are all effective.

How to use the Reminiscence Box

The box can be used in conjunction with other people, so there could be a group of other friends of a similar age the activity can help to develop social skills and improve cohesion. Conversations can be prompted as people share thoughts and feelings about the objects and images. The boxes can also be enjoyed with people of a younger generation; sharing memories and a glimpse into someone’s past can help younger people learn more about someone’s life and gain a better understanding of them as a person.

Reminiscence boxes are also a great tool to use if someone is moving to a new home, accommodation or somewhere unfamiliar. The box can follow them wherever they go and serve as a reminder of who they are and improve their confidence and self-esteem in a new location.