Reminiscence Activities for People With Dementia

Reminiscence Activities for People With Dementia

The term ‘reminiscence’ refers to the recounting of stories, events, and memories from the past. It may be an episode that occurred in childhood, a song that was popular years back, or a special skill.

Reminiscence activities for people with dementia utilise long-term memory. It’s often the case that memories from way back remain accessible, even when short-term memory becomes less reliable.

Why is Reminiscence Important?

We all know the pleasure of sharing a memory or recounting a special event. For people with dementia this is particularly poignant because so much their experience is of having things done to, and for them. To be able to actively share a story and engage their listener’s interest is a powerful reminder that they too have a contribution to make.

One of the symptoms of dementia is repetition of particular stories. This may be about recounting a time that’s remembered with pleasure, or an event that is unresolved and continues to bother them. They’re memories that have got stuck, like a record that keeps playing the same song.

Reminiscence accesses different memories and stories. They may not ‘stick’ but there’s a chance they’ll create new patterns, whilst also stimulating mental processes and creating powerful shared moments between the speaker and their listeners.

4 Reminiscence Activities for People With Dementia

You don’t need any special skills to do these activities; just be ready to listen to and enjoy the results.

1. Share Your Own Memories

If you have dementia, being asked questions can be confusing, or overwhelming as so much information seems to be missing. Try sharing your own memories as a gentler approach. You might talk about your wedding day and allow that to lead into: “Do you have any memories of your wedding?”

2. Do Rather Than Say

Memories can reside in actions as well as words. If you know what a person did for a living, ask them to show you a particular skill. Did they play the piano, draw, do shorthand, wrap goods, prepare food etc? Try playacting the situation where they would need to use those skills and see if they come back.

3. The Five Senses

It could be a smell, a texture, a taste, or a sound that unlocks a memory. What might have meaning for this person? Try showing clips from a film that might have been popular when they were young, or find some sweets that they’ve mentioned. Often popular songs can retrieve memories or looking through family photographs together.

4. Listening for Clues

It can be easy to decide that someone with dementia isn’t making sense – because it can often sounds like that. If you listen carefully, though, there are often threads you can follow to an important breakthrough. If someone keeps telling you about the price they paid for a carpet, ask where it came from and where they put it in their house. Think of yourself as a detective looking for clues as you open up a potential conversation.


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