Reminiscing is a part of life- at every age. Research reveals that our earliest memories can start from the age of two-and-a-half. Consider how often you hear "do you remember that time when...!" Resurrecting memories cause us to experience many emotions, and we call upon them when we need a good laugh, and sometimes a good cry.
How delightful it is when someone else recalls something that was buried deep in our memories that we had forgotten, and it comes right back hearing someone else recall the experience!
Reminiscing is fun, and research indicates that for elders living with dementia in care communities, reminiscing has positive effects on quality of life, cognition, and communication. Lurking inside a dementia-affected brain is decades of long-term memories- and many can be accessed with just a little prompting.
Five Tips for Reminiscing
- When visiting with a person living with dementia, avoid beginning a sentence with, "don't you remember" or "do you remember." Rather, introduce a subject using a prompt such as a picture or familiar photo and say, "I saw this, and I was reminded that you love bird watching."
- Allow the silent pauses. There is no need to fill up the silence with chatter. Remaining silent will give the person the time necessary to process.
- Feed off of the person's response with a simple question that continues the memory, "where was your favorite bird-watching spot?"
- Avoid closed-ended statements such as, "I remember your favorite spot was in Southern Illinois along the river."
- When encountering negative memories, just listen and offer support. There is no point in trying to change someone's mind about recollections or feelings.
Reminiscing- an Accessible Activity for Everyone
The name of the game these days is simplicity. Caregivers need life-engagement resources that are easily accessible and quickly effective, and this includes all caregivers whether in a caring community or in the home.
AGE-u-cate's interactive life-engagement activity called Flashback is a fun and affordable way to engage in a reminiscing activity. Card sets can be included on activity carts, near a nursing dept. workspace, a bookshelf, or at the main entrance, to name a few.
At the Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA), we pull out the Flashback cards when we have 15 or 20 minutes to fill before lunch, or the end of the day. They work every time and are a new experience. They are great!
Peer Lykke, BACOA Volunteer and Pam Pellizzari, Memory Programs Director
Tips for Using Flashback
- In the dining room before meals are served.
- As a resource for your family members to engage with their loved ones.
- As a resource for volunteers.
- With the cards splayed on a table, organize a small self-directed group of residents and let them dive in!
- In the admissions conference room as an ice breaker.