For people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, personal identity can seem to slip away as cognitive abilities decline. But even as individuals begin to lose touch with current events, they may hold onto cherished memories.
Photographs, treasured objects, and favorite songs all can help stimulate fond thoughts of the past for people with dementia. The strong bond to familiar people and places is the basis for a special form of therapy that helps individuals with dementia recall their personal histories.
What Is Reminiscence Therapy?
Reminiscence therapy is a treatment that uses all the senses — sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound — to help individuals with dementia remember events, people, and places from their past lives. As part of the therapy, care partners may use objects in various activities to help individuals with recall of memories.
Components of reminiscence therapy can include simple activities, such as conversation, as well as more advanced clinical therapies to help bring memories from the distant past into present awareness. Storytelling about past events can help individuals with dementia feel less isolated and more connected to the present, experts say.
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Benefits for Individuals with Dementia
In many cases, recent memories deteriorate first for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. By sharing memories from the past through reminiscence therapy, people with dementia can develop more positive feelings while reducing stress and agitation.
With minimal prompting — including simple questions, photos, songs or the beginning of a family story — individuals with dementia may recall memories from childhood and young adulthood. Reminiscing about memories can help people feel more confident in their abilities and provide them with the opportunity to talk about what holds meaning for them. In addition, engaging in conversation about the past can provide relief from boredom and symptoms of depression, and it helps preserve family stories for later generations.
Reminiscing with Screen Legends
For many people, iconic movies and actors can bring back pleasant memories. An upcoming event, Movie Moments at the Vogue, features a unique film experience created for individuals living with dementia, along with their care partners, family members, neighbors and friends.
During the event, moderators show brief, well-known clips from famous films and prompt discussion and reminiscence among audience members. The popular event, held at the historic Vogue Theatre in San Francisco, entertains participants as it increases awareness and reduces the stigma associated with dementia.
The next Movie Moments at the Vogue takes place Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Vogue Theatre, 3920 Sacramento St. Admission is free, and advance registration is required.