During our young lives and well through our middle years, what we think about most often is the future. After all, we expect we’ll have a great deal of time to look forward to. For those in their golden years, the past becomes much more important to ponder on. For those with dementia, the past may be the only safe place to go.
Reminiscing Can Help Seniors with Dementia
If you can just put yourself in their place for just a moment, you might see that the present is full of problems. When you can’t remember what was just said, or that you just had a meal, it becomes easy to just quit talking and without those verbal connection, depression is sure to follow. So how can we connect to that loved one we are losing? Focus on their past.
Most of our elders have so many fond memories. Their youth is perhaps where they made their mark, and have their strongest sense of accomplishments. The past is where they had all their “firsts” and even if there were struggles, there was joy in the journey. For those with mild to moderate dementia, remembering the past is much easier than the present. They can feel confident in talking about it with you because it is still vivid in their minds.
Reminiscing Can Help Reduce Stress in Dementia
Many experts have studied the benefits of reminiscing and found it relieves stress, and delays the progression of dementia. But it doesn’t take an expert to use it to improve your relationship with your loved one. Reminiscing is just talking about the past. If you plan on reminiscing with elders, there are a few tips I think will help. First of all, plan your sessions for a time of the day that your elder is most receptive. Morning hours are probably best for most, but not all. Pick a comfortable location free from distractions where they can make eye contact and hear you well. Having a table nearby is also helpful so you and your elder can enjoy a cup of tea or other refreshments. Remember, you’re not only remembering memories, your making new ones, so make it special.
Items that will facilitate reminiscing include photographs, music, old toys, books with lots of pictures, and antique household items. If you’re undecided about what to use, it’s okay to just talk. When you feel your elder is comfortable reminiscing, try tape recording their stories. It’s a great way to pass on their history to other family members and even future generations.
You can find great topics and questions for reminiscing on the Story Corps website. But here are a few I have found are golden!
1. What’s the first home you remember as a child?
2. Tell me about the chores you did as a child.
3. What was your favorite thing about school?
4. Who was your best friend when you were a child?
5. What was your favorite vacation activity?
6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
7. What did your parents teach you that feel made a big difference in your life?
8. Who was your first boyfriend/girlfriend?
9. Where did you meet your spouse and what was your first date like?
10. What was your favorite toy?
Don’t forget to ask them about the places where they grew up. For instance, “What was your town like when you were a child? You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about your parent and the history of the places where they lived. If you’re reminiscing with your parent, ask about your own childhood. What were their favorite memories of raising you? Don’t be surprised if they remember events differently. It’s not the dementia. It’s just coming from their point of view.
I hope this encourages you to make these wonderful connections with your loved ones. We are all more than just who we are today. We are an accumulation of all our accomplishments and experiences. Sharing these will give us a greater understanding of each other and allow your loved ones with dementia to express themselves in a positive way.
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About The Author: Karen Everett Watson is a Gerontologist and has over 10 years experience as a Journalist. Karen has spent 4 years in the senior community interviewing retirement community residents. She also wrtites articles for SeniorCareHomes.com, a comprehensive Assisted Living online directory, trusted by seniors and families. SeniorCareHomes.com also provides free placement services to help Seniors and their families find assisted living based on the senior's care needs, family's budget and location.
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