For people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the present can be bewildering and fractured. Short term memory can be unreliable or practically non-existent, while longer term memory may remain intact.
For these people, reminiscing, or talking about old times, makes sense. It’s a way for them to connect and talk without the added stress of having to remember recent events or details. Studies have shown that reminiscing can be a valuable form of formal therapy for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Informally, it can be a great way for you to connect with your loved one.
Here’s how to help your loved one reminisce:
Too often, interactions with elderly loved ones become dull and repetitive. We’ll ask how they feel, if they want to eat, if they’re too warm or too cold, but fail to ask about anything more interesting. Open ended questions about the past can help prompt them to talk about their memories. Ask what school was like when they were growing up, how they got on with siblings or parents, how they met their husband or wife. You might even learn something interesting or uncover a lost bit of family history.
Being a good listener means responding to details, asking follow up questions, and sharing your own experiences if they’re relevant. Let the person know you’re interested in their stories through your body language and responses.
Photos and objects can help trigger lost memories. Look through old photo albums and ask about the people in the pictures, ask about jewelry or war medals, ask questions about souvenirs that have survived through the years.