Have you ever seen a friend from your past and spent the entire time reminiscing about shared memories? “Do you remember when . . . ?” you might have said, and they enthusiastically replied, “Yes! Or that time when . . . ?” Sharing life experiences, memories, and stories from your past isn’t just fun; it can also be beneficial for a person with dementia. One reason for this is that people suffering from memory loss often find it easier to recall long-since-past memories as opposed to more recent memories, so reminiscing helps the person feel competent and confident in their memory skills. If you’re looking for ways to help a loved one open up, review our list of fun ways to reminisce below.
Fun Ways to Reminisce
- Use objects, smells, and foods to prompt memories. Sometimes it’s difficult to pull a memory out of thin air. Use props to trigger memories, such as photographs, mementos, clothing, or even songs, videos, foods, and smells. It helps if you know the other person well and can find things that truly relate to their past. You could cook a delicious family recipe, find old videos of their favorite sports team, or put on a playlist of their favorite jazz tunes.
- Don’t just talk – do something. Our bodies can hold onto memories as well. So if you’re tired of talking, try sparking memories by asking your loved one to do something they often did in their past. For example, if your loved one enjoyed baking, ask if they would help you bake some bread. They might immediately start kneading the dough like a pro. Or if your loved one was a skilled card player, try playing a simple game and asking them to shuffle the cards and deal.
- Make it a group activity. Reminiscing in a group can spark connections between different people, making the process more fun and socially beneficial. If you choose the right topic, you can spark a lively discussion amongst the group. Be sure to select broad topics so that everyone can join the discussion: food, holidays, jobs, transportation, seasons, etc. Avoid topics that may bring up painful memories, such as war or politics.
- Create a memory box. Fill a box with objects that may evoke memories of the past, such as vintage advertisements, toys, food packaging, etc. This makes for a great group activity, as you can pass items around the group and allow everyone to discuss the memories stimulated by the objects.
- Toss around a “question ball.” Blow up a large beach ball and write simple questions on it with permanent marker. Then, have the group members toss the beach ball to one another. The person who catches the ball must answer the question that their right thumb is touching and relay a quick memory (if they can think of one). This is one of the best fun ways to reminisce because it also helps with hand-eye coordination. The following are examples of questions you might write on the ball:
- Cats or dogs?
- Mountains or ocean?
- Summer or winter?
- Baseball or basketball?
- Favorite color?
- Favorite subject in school?
- Favorite TV show?
Tips for Reminiscing with Someone with Dementia
Reminiscing with someone with dementia can be extremely beneficial, but there are a few important things to keep in mind (source):
- Your loved one may repeat the same story over and over again. If it’s a positive memory, listen with interest to show your loved one that you care. If it’s a painful or traumatic memory, you should still listen patiently, but then try distracting the person with another topic or activity so that they don’t feel distressed for long.
- Avoid asking, “Do you remember when . . .?” as this can be a stressful prompt for people with memory problems. Likewise with simple, factual questions like, “How old were you when . . .?” or, “Where did you . . . ?” Instead, try sharing your own memories to inspire your loved one to open up. For example, you might say, “I always loved taking art classes in school. My favorite was ceramics – I used to make mugs as Christmas gifts for my friends. Did you have any favorite subjects in school?”
Using these fun ways to reminisce can help your loved one feel valued, contented, peaceful, and skilled. So lend your ears, inject humor whenever you can, and enjoy your time reminiscing.
If you’re looking for a new home where you can enjoy your golden years, check out The Shores of Lake Phalen in Maplewood, Minnesota. Located in a wooded setting near two lakes, our community offers apartment-style housing with the atmosphere and elegance of a resort. Thanks to the team of dedicated staff members, residents enjoy a carefree lifestyle without the common worries of running a household. Schedule a tour to explore our community or give us a call at 651-777-7784. We look forward to hearing from you!