Reminiscence Therapy; What It Is and How to Get the Most from It

Inpatient mental health facility

Dementia and Alzheimers disease pose problems for a lot of seniors. As many as one in three seniors suffers from one of these ailments at the end of their lives. Globally, it is estimated that at least 47.5 million people suffer from dementia. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 75.6 million. By 2050, the number of people who have dementia is expected to triple. In terms of Alzheimer’s Disease, there are at least 5.3 million people living with it in the United States. Some estimates a person developing the disease every 67 seconds. One new way people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is called reminiscence therapy.

What is reminiscence therapy?

Reminiscence therapy uses non-pharmacological techniques to help people who suffer from demential and Alzheimer’s disease. This is a very useful way to improve the sufferers’ self esteem and help older people recapture a sense of self and fulfillment that losing some cognitive abilities may damage.

Basically, reminiscence therapy is a form of talk therapy. Although many people who suffer from all kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, have a hard time remembering more recent events but have an easier time recalling events and people from their childhood. By using different storytelling techniques and allow people to relive some of their happier memories, people who suffer from these debilitating conditions are able to reconnect with the parts of their memories that remain while helping them communicate with more people in the present. For many families, storytelling sessions are ways to share happy memories and bond with each other. The same can be said for this kind of treatment. In some ways it is a lot like art therapy and music therapy in that it stimulates parts of the brain that are still functioning.

This kind of therapy has been shown to greatly reduce anxiety, depression in adults who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and really helps improve these patients’ quality of life. There are things you can to to help someone get the most from this kind of therapy.

Tips for getting the most from reminiscence therapy:

  1. Talk to friends and family members about helping with this. Ask them to help you gather family memorabilia and photos they may have of the person or friends and family. If the person who will undergo this kind of treatment is living in an inpatient mental health facility, it is probably a very unfamiliar location for them. This may make the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease worse. Surrounding the person with items that they recognize can only help them with this and other therapies they may be trying.
  2. Find as many items that evoke positive memories as you can. Are there any items that will bring back happy memories? Pieces of jewelry, maybe? Sometimes things they used when they were younger bring back that part of their lives and can make e big difference. If your grandmother worked as a seamstress when she was younger, bringing her a sewing machine from that era may be something that triggers a good memory. There may be movies they mean a lot to them, bring one over and watch it with them. If you have old family movies, bring them to the person and spend some time watching them. Let them tell you about the stories behind the family movies.
  3. Find things that use other senses. These do not have to be just photos and other visual items, though those work well. Consider other things that may evoke positive memories. There may be music that is helpful for this purpose. You can find almost any music you want on the internet. The sense of smell has bee said to be the closest to memory. The scent of certain foods cooking or baking may bring the person back to a different time in their lives.

Reminiscence therapy is a great way to help reconnect people with parts of their past that were pleasurable. By spending some time talking about the good times in their lives, people are given a better sense of self. Depression and anxiety are often lessened with this kind of therapy and their lives are improved.


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