Reminiscing and Dementia

When you love someone who is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you can find yourself struggling to make conversation and connections. It’s normal if you find yourself in this situation. Cognitive decline can make conversation difficult for a variety of reasons ranging from word-finding challenges to sensory overload.

Fortunately, you can make conversation a bit easier if you use an intervention called reminiscing. Our CaringGivers team members use this tool often with our clients, whether they have cognitive decline or not. There’s something about chatting about the past that can be effective for all of us.

What is Reminiscing?

Reminiscing, in general, is encouraging conversation about memories from the past. If you’ve ever caught yourself remembering a funny story from high school or a comforting memory of your grandma’s house, you are reminiscing. The act of remembering can create feelings of peace and love, which can help people living with dementia feel comforted.

Reminiscing and Dementia

Reminiscing is a tool used by many dementia caregivers. It works so well because it is:

  • Failure-free
  • Easy to do, no matter where the person is
  • Designed to create feelings of calmness and peace
  • A way for caregivers and older adults to connect

The key to reminiscing is to go where the conversation takes you. A question about a favorite summer vacation may lead to talking about parenting or marriage, and that is okay! Having your loved one take the lead will result in a meaningful moment for you both.

Reminiscing Tips and Tricks

You don’t need any special supplies to start reminiscing with your loved one. In fact, you can reminisce anywhere, whether you are in the car on the way to the grocery store, in the kitchen with a cup of tea, or in the physician’s office waiting on their appointment. You only need a few questions on hand that are open-ended and about the past. Steer clear from questions that are answered with a quick “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Tell me about a time when you went camping.
  • What’s the secret to getting a baby to sleep through the night?
  • What was your favorite sport to play?
  • What’s the best part of summer?

Next, remember you aren’t the star of this conversation. Take the pressure off to fill any silence or quiet spots and instead spend your time interacting while encouraging your loved one to share more. Phrases that work well include:

  • Tell me more about that.
  • I love this story. Tell me more!
  • Then what happened?

Finally, when you are reminiscing, remember that it isn’t necessarily about the initial question you asked. Instead, it’s about the experience of visiting together. Enjoy the moment with your loved one and cherish any new stories you might hear.

If your loved one has a diagnosis of dementia, you can quickly become overwhelmed as a family caregiver. Let us help. Our team offers experience caring for older adults living with dementia and can relieve the caregiving burden from your shoulders so that you can return to being a son or daughter again. Call us today to tell us more about your situation.

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