Stimulating Happy Memories for Those with Dementia
Reminiscence is a powerful way to enhance and improve the well-being of people living with dementia. Images, objects, scents and sounds all hold memories. When our senses are triggered upon experiencing something nostalgic, our brains may recall memories associated with whatever we're seeing, hearing, smelling or touching. Reminiscence can give us insight into a person's history. We may find out more about their interests and reconnect with a forgotten part of their life story.
Here are some activities that are likely to stimulate particularly happy memories for those with dementia:
Sharing stories of our early childhood experiences is an enjoyable way to cherish our past history. Reminiscing about early experiences can sometimes be the only way for someone with dementia to define who they are. Childhood games are a good way to revive distant memories. First, find out which games or activities they enjoyed in the past and work with the ones they would recognize best. Old games such as Jacks, Jenga or 'ball in a cup' are great examples of how to engage and reminisce with someone in your care. For someone in the earlier stages of dementia, try a more physical activity that gets them up and walking. For example, flying a kite, corn hole, or table tennis may also prove to be worthwhile activities.
Another method to elicit joy is listening to upbeat tunes. For someone in the later stages of dementia, you may come to realize that music is the only way for them to express their emotions. Creating a personal playlist on StoriiCare is a great way for family members to help provide care staff with a way to help their loved one when they're upset or confused. Relatives will know which songs their loved one is likely to associate with a happy time of life, a specific joyful memory or a personal favorite they always loved to dance to. In a group setting, 'Name that Tune' is a game that can enjoyed by all to help bring back memories by association.
Many community spaces like art and history museums or cinemas and theatres are putting on dementia-friendly programming. There are endless opportunities for outings that may help people with dementia reminisce or relive old memories while creating new ones at the same time. Memory care communities may go strawberry picking in the garden, take residents to get ice cream on the beach, watch a baseball game, or see a dementia-friendly play. These are all things people living with dementia would have likely done throughout their lives as children and adults. They each present opportunities for fun and stimulation, but also for conversations around what things used to be like, favorite interests, happy memories, etc.
When living with dementia, day-to-day memories may be easily forgotten. However, looking at old photos will often trigger long-term memories. The person will often show great delight in having the ability to share these memories and chat about their life.
TV & Radio
Television and radio have also been known to trigger beloved memories of someone living with dementia. The BBC have created The ReMArc project which was set up to help tap into memorable moments using a collective BBC archive of early TV and radio material. Their website is an effective way to rekindle old memories - you can simply find old content by searching by decade and/or theme. It is a great resource for reminiscence therapy at home, or in a care home environment. You can find other resources in 3 Overlooked Tools for Reminiscence.