A Trip Down Memory Lane: REMINISCING

What is reminiscing and why is it important for those with dementia?

The dictionary defines reminiscing as “indulging in enjoyable recollection of past events.” Reminiscing can be especially beneficial for those with dementia. We can all become frustrated when we forget recent events, names, or tasks. Reminiscing about a treasured memory can be easier for someone with dementia, since it provides feelings of confidence and success. The practice of reminiscing can also decrease stress and depression. Reminiscing is fun for caregivers as well, and you may learn something new about the person you’re caring for!

How do I get the most out of reminiscing?

I like to start reminiscing by choosing a topic that is related to the current season. This gives a starting point and can help orient someone with dementia to what time of year it is. For example, in the summer months I may ask about a picnic, swimming pool, or vacation. You can make reminiscing simple by just giving a prompt: Mom, tell me about your favorite summer activity. See what stories are brought up and where the conversation takes you.
To make reminiscing into a more interactive activity, try to use all the senses.

Sight: Show pictures related to your topic and ask them to describe it. What does this picture of the beach remind you of?

Smell: Use scents to bring the memory to life. Did you ever use sunscreen that smelled like this coconut lotion?

Touch: Objects or props to touch can help make the reminiscing livelier. When have you felt sand like this before?

Hearing: Use YouTube to play some sounds or songs that the person may remember hearing. Do you hear the ocean waves? What memory does it make you think of?

Taste: Share a snack or drink related to the topic. What does this lemonade remind you of? How would you have made the lemonade?

Using all the senses along with open-ended questions helps a person with dementia to dive into their memories and share their story.

Start a conversation, get creative, and have fun reminiscing! We would love to hear some of the favorite things you’ve learned through reminiscing. Feel free to share with us as well!

Authored by:
Autumn Leonard, MSW
Care Manager
Finger Lakes Caregiver Institute
Lifespan of Greater Rochester

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