Storytelling and spending time recalling happy memories is a common part of family bonding. For those with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a way of helping them reconnect with events and times that are still a part of their memory. Reminiscence therapy (RT) is based on that idea. RT is the process of helping those with Alzheimer’s or dementia recall personal experiences from their  past. It works by decreasing demands on the individual’s impaired cognitive abilities by utilizing those that still remain. That means you understand and accept that recent memories are likely gone for good and reminisce about those from more distant days. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

Getting Started with Reminiscence Therapy

If you are exploring ideas for how to get started using RT with a senior loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, these tips should help:

  1. Enlist friends and family to help collect old photos and other family memorabilia. Your goal should be to track down those items from your loved one’s past that will elicit happy memories for them.
  2. Think about what other physical props might trigger good memories for your loved one.  Are there pieces of furniture in their home or yours with an important story behind them? Maybe an old rotary phone or ice cream maker? How about an old piece of jewelry?
  3. Another way to help your loved one reminisce and reconnect with good times is by using their sense of smell to prompt a response. For example, if their mother baked apple and cherry pies for them as a child, recreating those scents might stimulate a response.
  4. Music might be another way to help you and your loved one share some memories. Track down CDs of their favorite bands from their youth. You can probably even find videos of them on YouTube.
  5. Don’t forget about movies they loved back in the day. Scheduling a family movie night featuring the oldies can be a good way for multiple generations to connect and share.
  6. Finally, consider creating a Talking Family Album or family movie that combines old and new memories. That will make it easier to visit the past together more often.