“Reminiscing and reminiscence therapy involve reaching the memories that reside in these still viable regions of the brain. There are many ways to encourage these memories, and you should. They can be comforting, even therapeutic. A study published in the June 2007 issue of Geriatrics and Gerontology International concluded that a reminiscence group program was an effective way to enhance the cognitive capacity of people with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia as well as their ability to participate in normal activities of daily living. A summary of existing data, including studies published in professional journals, and interviews with specialists concluded that the general mood and cognition improved in subjects with dementia who participated in some form of reminiscence therapy.
In a strict sense, reminiscence therapy involves discussing and sharing memories, reviewing and evaluating those memories, and re-capturing the emotions and feelings that are an integral part of those memories. This process can be done one-to-one or in groups. However, when reminiscing with someone with dementia it is often better to take a less formal approach, and one-to-one can be preferable to group reminiscence, especially for people in more advanced stages. You may want to eliminate the evaluation and review part and focus on the emotions inherent in the memories. The activity should be enjoyable and non-threatening, and talking and sharing is not even a strict requirement. Never try to force the conversation, but you may have to lead it by making suggestions, like, “Do you remember what you were doing when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon?” Props or aids are also a good way to initiate and sustain the process.”