Reminiscing: Alzheimer’s and Caregiving

Reminiscing: Alzheimer’s and Caregiving

Reminiscing: Alzheimer’s and Caregiving

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that impacts cognitive function. One of the major symptoms of Alzheimer’s is that people living with the disorder lose the ability to recall short-term memories. Short-term memory is often impacted far before long-term memory. As result, those living with Alzheimer’s are better able to recall older memories than newer ones. This fact has made the therapeutic technique of reminiscing a popular way to improve mood and behaviors.

One definition of “reminiscing” is sharing happy memories, positive life events, and good stories from the past.[1] The aim and usual result of reminiscing is feelings of happiness and positivity. Because this activity is low-risk and not harmful, it is a great tool for caregivers to reminisce with their aging loved one in order to reduce negative emotions and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s.

In this blog, we will go over ways to promote reminiscing behaviors in your loved one and how you can elicit positive memories from them.

Ways to Promote Reminiscing and Stimulate Positive Memories

Play your loved one’s favorite music: Current research, as described by the Mayo Clinic, has shown that music provides “emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.”[2] This is because the part of your brain remembers music left relatively undamaged. Thus, music can be an excellent way to provide positive emotions and feelings for your loved one. Find their favorite album or genre of music (perhaps by looking at their personal collection) and put it on the speakers!

Photos: One great way to evoke past memories is with photos. If you have access to a photo album that belongs to your aging loved one, then use that as a tool for reminiscing. If you know which photos or particular life events were positive for your loved one, then select those and put them in a separate book. The goal is to bring back positive memories and to allow your loved one to tell you the stories behind those photos, or at least to recall aspects of the photo for their benefit.

Scent and Taste: One way to evoke powerful memories is through the senses, especially smell and taste. These senses are often powerful ways to evoke memories that seem beyond our control. They are called “involuntary memories.” In fact, the famous French author, Marcel Proust, discussed this phenomenon in his book In Search of Lost Time in which one of the characters memories were sparked after tasting and smelling a favorite snack. Try to cook your loved one’s favorite food and see if that sparks any joy. You can also try to scented things, like flowers, oils, and so on.

One last consideration is what you can do if your loved one remembers something unpleasant. Make sure to respond gently and with kindness.[3] Try to lead them back to positive memories if possible. It may take some time, but be understanding and patient.

If you have any questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.

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