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How Reminiscing Can Benefit Loved Ones with Memory Loss

Our memories are the only paradise from which we can never be expelled.” – Jean Paul Richter, 18th century writer

This quote rings true today, even for loved ones living with memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In fact, experts tell us that reminiscing about the “good old days” is not only possible for those with memory loss, it also very pleasant and helpful to them. 

Crystal Yost, BA, PAC-certified, Program Director at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr says, “Today, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Mayo Clinic and otherauthorities in the field of memory care recognize reminiscing as a credible and valuable form of therapy for loved ones living with memory loss.

“Recalling people, places and events from ‘back in the day’ can be highly beneficial, enabling loved ones to reconnect socially while also enhancing their physical and emotional well-being. Research studies have shown that ‘holistic’ therapies using reminiscence, music, art, pets and pleasing aromas can play a valuable role in reducing stress and agitation while promoting a sense of calm.

“For example, a study reported in Geriatrics and Gerontology International concluded that a reminiscence program was an effective way to enhance the cognitive capacity of people with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia as well as their ability to participate in normal activities of daily living.”

How Reminiscing Helps Those with Memory Loss

Reminiscing works because it reaches the memories that reside in the still viable regions of the brain. These areas of the brain are not usually affected until the later stages of dementia’s progression. Thus, loved ones with memory loss often remember much more about their younger years than about what happened yesterday.

According to memory care therapy expert, Matthew Giobbi, Ph.D., reminiscence therapy is intended to prompt, or “prime,” forgotten memories, increase emotional awareness and cultivate social interaction. He discusses the five basic forms of reminiscence and provides insight into how they work.

  • Sight – The sight of certain items can bring back memories from your loved one’s earlier life. Visual cues can also include photographs and movies from a time that is significant to them.
  • Sound – Recordings of old songs, sounds and voices with personal, historical and occupational significance to the person can be very powerful memory cues.
  • Smell – Aroma has the power to take a loved one to another place and time in their life. Aromatherapy using food, perfumes or commercial items of a specific era can stimulate the brain and create emotional contact.
  • Touch – Items that engage the patient's tactile sense can include clothing, blankets, fabric swatches and fur, as well as occupation-specific items. For example, a loved one who was a teacher may respond when given a piece of chalk.
  • Taste – Era-appropriate recipes, soft drinks and spices from your loved one’s younger days can be highly effective in prompting memories and self-expression.

The Valuable Benefits of Reminiscing with Your Loved One

The benefits of reminiscing are many and they assist loved ones with memory loss in a variety of ways. Researchers report that they include:

  • Alleviating symptoms of anxiety, agitation and depression
  • Reducing apathy and general lack of interest in the world around them
  • Increasing the ability to communicate – research has shown new pathways in the brain form as a loved one remembers the past.
  • Reestablishing lifes meaning for a person through connection to the past and reasserting their feeling of importance
  • Increasing self-worth and sense of belonging in the world
  • Providing relief from boredom and offering a distraction from day-to-day problems

Try Reminiscing with Your Loved One at Home

Crystal adds, “As noted by Dr. Giobbi, reminiscing utilizes all of the human senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – to stimulate positive response and engagement in loved ones. With this knowledge, caregivers can easily reminiscence therapy for their loved ones at home.

“Start by thinking about the happiest times in your loved one’s life and make a list of those people, places and activities they would enjoy remembering. Then collect items that can help to stimulate those pleasant memories such as old family videos, photo albums, favorite music and classic movies from their era.

“You can also create a ‘memory box’ for them that contains favorite items and memorabilia that represent their happiest years. By giving these items to your loved one regularly and having conversations about them, you will enable them to relive happy moments in their life while creating opportunities for important social engagement.”

Your Dependable Resource for Memory Care Information

More than a homelike haven for exceptional memory care services, Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr also serves as an important educational resource for at-home caregivers. We invite you to view our monthly articles and tips on memory care regularly. They are there to make your life as a caregiver easier and to improve the quality of care you offer to your loved one.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404,or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.