For someone living with dementia, recalling memories is not always a simple endeavour. This can make engaging in fluid conversations difficult and cause the person to withdraw.

By integrating reminiscence as part of activities, a person living with dementia may be able to recall memories more easily which in turn can help to improve their overall wellbeing and mood.

What is Reminiscence?

Reminiscence refers to when someone shares memories from the past. It is important to consider that reminiscing is not the same as remembering, as this can cause unnecessary stress. Typically, whilst those living with dementia cannot recall short term memories, they may be able to recall older memories and reminiscence therapy can allow these to be triggered.

Benefits of Reminiscence

There are numerous benefits to reminiscing for those living with dementia. From helping them feel valued, to improving mood, reducing stress and boosting confidence. The successful recalling of memories will provide your loved one with a feeling of accomplishment while the happy memories bring joy and positive feelings.

Activities

There are an array of dementia games and activities which can be used to evoke memories for those living with dementia. Before engaging in these activities, it is important to plan accordingly. Make sure to choose a time when your loved one is most engaged, this is usually earlier in the day, and pick a location which is quiet and comfortable. Below are some examples of reminiscence activities which can be beneficial for someone living with dementia.

Photographs and Keepsakes

Looking through photos of friends and family may help to trigger memories of past events. For example, a picture of a house your loved one lived in may evoke memories of being a child and the feelings associated with that. It is important to listen and engage with these memories as they will likely progress into other stories.

Try creating a reminiscence box with your loved one, where you can include a series of photos and keepsakes which have an emotional attachment to them.  When setting out on a reminiscence activity you can go through the box together and discuss each item.

Sensory

It is not just sight that is useful for triggering memories, involving a variety of the senses may help to spark memories. Try listening to your loved one’s favourite song or watching an old film together and encourage conversations by asking simple questions about the topic. The sense of smell is also a powerful tool for reminiscing and activities such as cooking can help to spark memories. Try cooking something your loved one may have had as a child which has emotion attached to it, the smells and sounds are beneficial to sparking memories.  You can then eat the meal together, where taste may further these memories and conversations.

Group Activity

Although reminiscing can be a personal experience, it can be best brought out through the use of group activities. Watching an old film together is a brilliant group activity where conversations around the film may start which can encourage reminiscence. 

Day Trips

If there are specific locations which hold significance for your loved one, visiting this place together may assist in the triggering of memories. Sometimes being in a positive and familiar environment will bring back past thoughts and feelings and allow them to reminisce.

There are many activities which can help evoke memories for someone living with dementia, and whilst this is a primary benefit, these activities also have numerous other benefits for the person. Try engaging your loved one in reminiscence activities and see the positive effect it can have on both mood and their overall wellbeing.