Christmas is an ideal opportunity to encourage carers and families of people with dementia to reminisce about past festive times.
Typically a person with dementia loses their short-term memory first but is still able to recall older memories. For example, a person with dementia may not be able to remember what they had for lunch but are likely to remember a childhood celebration or a Christmas tradition.
Engaging in reminiscence can stimulate communication and help trigger positive, past memories. In fact, the power of reminiscence has been found to be particularly noticeable around the Christmas period.
Sue, Head of Care Quality and Dementia, shares her experience with the power of reminiscence.
“I have seen amazing results through the use of reminiscence over the years, where the person living with dementia has sparkled as they have relived important times in their lives and become the focus of real-life conversation rather than the receiver of care. Furthermore, I have learnt so much as an individual through reminiscence with others, including how to sing ‘Silent Night’ in German!
One lady living in a care home that I was working in hadn’t uttered a single word for many months. Staff knew that she was a German lady and had learnt a few words in order to communicate in a basic way. However, she seemed completely disinterested until she joined a small reminiscence group at Christmas time which focussed on traditional music, tasty treats and a trip down memory lane. When Silent Night came on, the lady closed her eyes and sang it in German. The whole room fell quiet as we looked on, open-mouthed. When she finished, the applause from everyone in the room was deafening. She opened her eyes, which were filled with tears but also had a sparkle that we hadn’t seen before.
From that day forward, every care worker heard about that story and everyone made more of an effort to get to know her better, and the things that were important to her. Other music was sourced and she was able to share her life in Germany, including her experience of the war, with others. Reminiscence can help to open the door for many people who may feel lost in today’s world and give them the opportunity to participate in a meaningful conversation with a real feeling of confidence.”
Reminiscence creates a fantastic opportunity to get to know the story of a person’s life to build a relationship of trust and friendship. It can’t reverse or stop the progression of dementia, but the stress reduction and the positive feelings achieved can help, reduce agitation, and minimize challenging behaviours.
Our range of activity products to encourage reminiscence can be found here