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The Power of Reminiscence

Reminiscence is remembering past experiences. We do this natural social activity on a daily basis. It acts as a bridge between today and yesterday. But why is reminiscence so crucial for someone with Alzheimer’s? On the one hand, reminiscence reconnects them with a happier time, a time when they were healthy and in control. But something we often forget is that this activity can also give us back what we’ve lost a long time ago: fun with our loved one.

We are too often overwhelmed by daily caregiving. We spend our time looking after the person and worrying about them, which ends up defining the relationship. We run out of time and energy for fun activities. Often, we hear about “giving power back” to seniors, but we don’t hear enough about the intimate moments that we forget. As a matter of fact, empowering people is about letting them live the way they always have. And it’s certainly a challenge to set time aside for those activities, but it’s worth it. By taking time to do reminiscence, we reconnect with the person we love, and we stop seeing our loved one as someone we have to care for, we grow closer to them, and most of all, we create intimate moments.

But how do we awake memories for someone with memory loss? How can we have a discussion when today, words just don’t come for them? It certainly isn’t always easy. But there is always a solution. You can use memory triggers. Take an old pipe out of its box, put a bit of Pledge on a washcloth, find an old sewing machine oil can and ask your loved one to smell it. Everyday life smells can stir up some fond memories. Let them smell, touch and discuss. Don’t hesitate to go to an antique store to find old objects (pipe, handbags, curling iron, eggbeater, etc.), because even if they are broken, they will still bring back memories for your loved one.

Sometimes, simply looking at a picture can bring up memories, and other times, they’re expressed through music. Take the opportunity to find the songs to which your loved one used to dance. Music can bring joy to any room and bring back an atmosphere that has been lost because we always focus on daily caregiving.

And when it’s a good day, ask them open questions to make sure they are in failure-free situations. We know too well that sometimes, memories just won’t come, but sometimes they come by thousands, and you might be surprised by their accuracy! By the details that will guide you through them, as if you were there. You might even be surprised by how much you’ll learn about your loved one and see them under a new light. By letting them talk about the details of their stories, not only do we grow closer to them, but we also allow them to live the happiness of great memories. And always remember to look at your loved ones in the eyes while they are talking, it will make them feel like they have your undivided attention.

Reminiscence is crucial in maintaining autonomy in seniors, but it is also a wonderful medium to experience touching moments with our loved one. This inexpensive activity is easy to do at home or in care facilities, and that’s why it is essential in giving power back to seniors.