Reminiscence Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease

How Recalling Memories Can Benefit People with Alzheimer's

Older Black woman looking at photographs
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Reminiscence refers to the act of recalling of memories from the past. It is a familiar activity to us all, but for people with Alzheimer’s disease, encouraging the act of reminiscence can be highly beneficial to their inner self and their interpersonal skills.

Reminiscence Activity and Therapy

Reminiscence therapy involves exchanging memories with the old and young, friends and relatives, with caregivers and professionals, passing on information, wisdom, and skills.

 Reminiscence activity and therapy is frequently used in therapeutic settings and residential care to give patients with Alzheimer’s disease a sense of value, importance, belonging, power, and peace. It can also help reduce injury to self-image, and it can create a feeling of intimacy and give special meaning to contact time with others.

Different Mediums used for Reminiscence Therapy and Activities

A variety of mediums that use different senses can assist the act of remembering. This means that people who have difficulty communicating verbally can have the opportunity to participate in reminiscence therapy in other ways. These include:

  • Visual: Using photographs, slides, painting pictures, and/or looking at objects of autobiographical meaning.
  • Aural: Using music such as familiar tunes from the radio, CDs, or making music using various instruments.
  • Smell or taste: Using smell kits and/or different foods.
  • Tactile: Touching objects, feeling textures, painting, and/or pottery.

Types of Reminiscence Activities and Therapies

Reminiscence can be used as individual, group, or family sessions and is generally categorized by three main types:

  • Simple reminiscence. The idea of this type of reminiscence is to reflect on the past in an informative and enjoyable way.
  • Evaluative reminiscence: This type is more of a therapy and may, for example, be used as a life-reviewing or sometimes conflict-resolving approach.
  • Offensive-defensive reminiscence: Occasionally, unpleasant and stressful information is recalled and can be the either the cause or the result of behavioral and emotional issues. Dealing with them can provide resolution—a coming to terms with life events and possible closure.

Inclusion of Caregivers, Friends, and Relatives in Reminiscence Activity

In a care facility or in a professional setting, the cooperation and inclusion of relatives and friends can enhance the reminiscence time for all parties. They may be able to provide photos or remember incidents in the person’s life that can increase the pleasure and engage a person with Alzheimer’s disease attention more fully. Friends and relatives can also provide valuable information on any subject that a person may find distressing or upsetting that require increased support.

The Right to Refuse Activity Involvement and Alzheimer's Disease

Remember to respect the individual’s involvement and contributions.

By all means, try to encourage participation but if a person does not want to be involved in the activity respect their right to refuse. Their refusal is as valid as yours, for self-protection, privacy, as an act of autonomy and power over their situation.

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