Benefits of Reminiscence Therapy on Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Care

It’s common to hear senior loved ones repeat old stories from time to time. It seems that there could be benefits to story-repeating seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Reminiscence therapy is the process of recalling and discussing experiences from an individual’s past, often using prompts that appeal to one’s senses.

Since long-term memory is the last to go for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, reminiscing is a way to talk about things they remember. By talking about their childhood and early adulthood, older adults who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia become more confident about socializing and using their verbal skills. Even for seniors without dementia, reminiscing is a way to affirm who they are, what they’ve accomplished and relive happy times.

Reminiscence therapy can range from simple conversations with elderly loved ones, to certified therapists using props and clinical methods to help Alzheimer’s patients retrieve distant memories. Reminiscing has proven to be beneficial on many levels, including:

• Increases ability to communicate. Research shows that new pathways to the brain form as a patient remembers the past.
• Distraction from day-to-day struggles and relief from boredom.
• Alleviates symptoms of depression and helps come to terms with growing older.
• Increases self-worth and sense of belonging in the world.
• Preserves stories and memories for future generations.
• Helps reduce reclusive tendencies that cause depression and anxiety.
• Encourages seniors to regain interest in past hobbies.
• Reduces apathy and confusion, especially in people who are confused or disoriented.
• Helps unlock memories.

While someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may not remember the recent past, memories from their childhood or early adult years may come back quickly with a little prompting.

There are multiple methods for arousing memories when caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It may be as simple as starting a well-known family story and asking for help finishing it. Think of topics or stories that may spark a memory or discussion-a train ride, favorite trip, childhood paper route, seeing a movie for a quarter, or setting the table for Sunday dinner. If a topic seems effective, ask related questions and encourage further engagement.

Props often help. Look at old photographs or ask about the origins of mementos found throughout the home. Watch a favorite old movie or TV show. Sporting events may bring back memories of watching a big game or playing with friends as a child.

Music is often effective at awaking the memories of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Old songs and childhood rhymes seem to have a way of communicating with people with Alzheimer’s or dementia in ways that the spoken word cannot. Think of music that was popular in their youth or associated with a meaningful event in their life.

Scrapbooking and books about historical events are also helpful memory tools for loved ones with dementia. Scrapbooking allows you to create a custom memory book filled with meaningful photos to share with your elderly loved one.

It may be tempting to zone out upon hearing a story for the tenth time. However, by actively listening, making eye contact, and asking engaging questions, you and those you care for may enjoy increased communication, rekindled relationship, and renewed purpose, even if it is only temporary.

Tips for Caring for Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease

Most caregivers have little time to deal with a long list of caregiving tips for someone with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Instead of a long list, thinking of them as grouped into six categories making up the acronym SHAPES can make remembering them easier, and also make adding your own easier.

SHAPES stands for…


Safety is the first category for someone with AD. Did you know that falls could be an early sign of AD? Installing safety equipment like handrails in the bathroom and stairways can avert falls. Prevention can also include removing hazards, like throw rugs. Many folks with AD have a shuffling gait, so throw rugs may increase the risk for tripping and falling. Transitions between flooring can also be a risk for falling; such as going from high uneven pile carpet to vinyl flooring can likewise be a problem. Low pile even carpeting like a Berber carpet is less likely than a long shag carpet to be an issue, and can be easier to use with a walker or wheelchair. Lighting on stairs and dark hallways should also be evaluated to be sure it’s safe.

Other considerations include appliances. While a microwave is a fixture in many kitchens, it can be dangerous when used incorrectly. And someone with dementia may lose the ability to use it safely. Some ovens can be locked so they can’t be turned on easily. You may also consider turning off the circuit breakers to the oven, stove and other appliances if there’s a danger the person with AD cannot safely use them alone and may try to use them unsupervised.

Fire hazards should also be removed, and fire extinguishers handy. Install locks on cabinets containing potentially dangerous items like toxic cleaning chemicals, guns, alcohol, medicines, etc. Routinely check smoke alarms and replace their batteries regularly.

Hot water can cause burns. Checking the temperature of the water from your water heater and lowering it to a safe level can reduce its risk. An elder’s skin is more fragile than that of someone younger adding to the risk of injury. Sharp counter corners should be evaluated. Installing table edge guards or counters with rounded or bull nose edges can reduce the risk of bruising or tearing fragile skin.

Honoring and respecting your care receiver can be reflected in what you do and say. Your attitude can make a difference. For example, giving her simple choices like two different choices instead of only one or too many can make a task easier while allowing her to maintain some independence. One choice can emphasize dependency, while too many choices can be confusing leading to frustration, which can in turn increase agitation. Giving a choice that cannot fail-like choosing between two equally suitable options-also helps to avoid feelings of failure and embarrassment. Another tip is to allow her to do as much as she can without help, which encourages her independence and sense of accomplishment.

A third tip category is to adapt to the current situation. You may need to change the way you do things. When showering becomes a problem, you may need to have her shower less often, help her shower or even switch to sponge baths at least part of the time. While distractions like a television or radio in the background may not have been a problem in the past, they can be confusing and interfere with concentration for someone with AD. Instructions should be clear, and one step at a time. Complex instructions can be confusing, increasing frustration and agitation.

Patience is a necessity in caring for someone with AD. As AD progresses persons with it become more dependent. What they can do and how they react to situations can change. What works today may not work as well tomorrow. The underlying problem in AD is a disease of the brain, leading to inability to process information. Remaining patient and calm helps everyone adjust to the new situation. It’s normal for caregivers to be tired, exhausted and overwhelmed sometimes. They need to take regular breaks to recharge and relax, and to have patience. When worried that you could have handled something better, learn from the experience and use it to respond differently in the future. It may take more than one attempt to solve a challenge and feel successful.

Encouraging the person with helps them to avoid feeling frustrated or that they’ve failed. Everyone wants to feel like a success. One of the hardest things can be for people who become more dependent with time to become frustrated with what they can’t do. Even if it seems like the person with AD is not consciously aware of the situation, she can still become disappointed and frustrated from it. She may not be able to explain or understand why, which can add to the annoyance.

Scheduling is also important in caring for someone with AD. Establishing and keeping to routines reduces confusion, and there is comfort in the familiar. A regular routine can also decrease agitation. When scheduling, take into account the best time of day for your care receiver. Mornings may be best for her to have appointments when she’s more alert and not tired. Adding extra time to do something is also important. It is likely things will take longer than previously, and scheduling time for unexpected delays can reduce tension and prevent frustration and additional distress.

One of the most important tips for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is that each person with the disease has a different experience with it. Not all these tips will work in all situations, and that’s normal. The caregiving tips groups in SHAPES and in this article are also meant to stimulate ideas for tips that will work in your unique situation. Tweak these tips and suggestions to meet your care receiver’s needs, which may change with time.

How To Make Your Aging Loved One Feel Special For A Day

The aging population is at high risk of experiencing a host of negative emotions such as grief, depression, stress and anxiety. As people grow older, they often have to deal with the passing of family members, spouses and close friends. Many elderly people also spend an inordinate amount of time on their own. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to make an elderly relative feel good about his or herself.

Take your senior family member out for a walk. Moderate exercise can promote longevity and walking is a great, low-impact way to burn calories, promote the release of powerful, mood-boosting hormones and foster improvements in both balance and coordination. Time spent outdoors in a peaceful, natural environment can be incredibly uplifting.

Sign up for a class that the two of your can take together. This will ensure that the two of you are spending quality time together on a routine basis and it will give your family member something to look forward to. This could be a painting or photography class, instruction in water ballet or even a mild, yoga session. See what classes are available at local, senior recreation centres.

Spend time listening to your loved one and ask for advice. Elderly people have a lot of wisdom that they have gleaned throughout the years. Sadly, few people take the time to capitalise on the important info that they have to share. Seeking advice from a senior is a great way for making this individual feel both valued and appreciated.

Treat your family member to lunch and a movie. Outings like these provide the social interaction and engagement that all people need. They also give people with minor mobility challenges a chance to get out of the house and engage with the real world. Doing this just once or twice each month can have a considerable impact on your loved one’s overall life quality.

It is also a good idea to treat senior adults to makeovers from time to time. They may experience changes in fine motor coordination and dexterity that make it difficult to deal with buttons and other closures. A few new outfits that include garments that can be easily pulled up or over their bodies will allow them to maintain their independence in this important area for fair longer. A trip to the nail or hair salon can also result in aesthetic improvements that rebuild confidence and make aging adults feel good about their looks, despite any recent changes.