We can only imagine the frustration an elder feels when they try to have a conversation but can't remember what was just said or even what day it is. It's also very frustrating for the caregiver and makes the relationship strained - which leads to guilt and stress. So take a break from the dementia and go back to a time your loved one can remember well. Reminiscing can bring a respite for you both and leave your loved one feeling much better about themselves.
Until the very last stages of dementia, one who suffers from the disease can still remember their childhood and early adulthood. This is the place where you can connect with your loved one and make it a positive experience. Reminiscence is just remembering the past and it's been proved to alleviate stress, diminish depression and bring a sense of self-worth back to those who suffer from dementia.
There are so many ways that you can "facilitate" reminiscence and create a happy place for your loved one to go. All our senses are strong connectors to the past - smell, taste, hearing, sight and touch. Bringing out the family photo album is one place you can start. Pick an album that has photos of your loved one's childhood and those when they were a young adult. Sit down in a comfortable place where you can also make eye contact with them. Ask them questions about the photos. Yes, you might already know all the family stories, but you'll give your loved one an opportunity to use their verbal skills and share them self with you. You might be surprised what you will learn about your family history!
Another way to reminisce with your elder is through music. Find some old favorites of your loved one. Encourage them to sing along or dance to the tunes! It's fun for them and for you. Just think about the songs you listened to when you were a teen; they have the power to take you right back to your high school days when life was brand new.
Food is also a way to bring reminiscing into your daily lives. Even if you loved one has trouble in the kitchen, they can keep you company. Decide on a favorite recipe your mother (or father) made for you as a child. Ask them where they learned to cook that dish. Was it from your grandmother or theirs? Talk about how you loved it when you were young and the happy times you spent as a family at the dinner table. Give them the opportunity to talk about things they can feel confident conversing about.
The garden is another place that can remind your loved one of better days. Did they like to garden or enjoy the out-of-doors. Encourage them to touch the flowers and smell the wonderful fragrances. Ask them about their mother or father's gardens. Did they help tend the garden when they were a child? Did their parents grow a vegetable garden? What was their favorite plant to grow? What vegetable tasted the best when it was grown on home ground?
Make these experiences as pleasant as possible. Try not to interupt them when they talk or correct them if their remembrances aren't quite correct. This is a time to build them up and give you a break also! I would also encourage you to have a notepad handy when you reminisce with your loved ones. Ask them about their favorite sports, what they wanted to be when they grew up and the turning points in their lives. Take notes; you'll want to remember these conversations.
Perhaps you've already discovered the power of reminiscing? How do you help your loved one to remember the past? What things would you like to know about your loved one? Ask them today and let us know how it went! We'd love to hear from you!
If you or a family member is going through a crisis, I want you to know that you're not alone. The support and education you need is available at your finger tips from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. You may talk to a real person who does have the answers, without any obligation by calling 989-652-3470 or by emailing
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