What is Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy engages older people in memories of their past, helping them put their entire lives in perspective. It’s become more popular as therapists have learned it brings those suffering from dementia a sense of peace and self-esteem.

Even for those who feel memories slip away as they age may still retain cherished memories from their youth. Reminiscence therapy may help them retain those memories by using photographs, objects and favorite songs that can stimulate fond thoughts of the past.

It’s an important therapy to know about for caregivers looking for support in dealing with loved ones with dementia. 

How Nostalgia Therapy Works

Reminiscence therapy, sometimes called nostalgia therapy, uses all the senses to help seniors recall fond memories. By stimulating sight, touch, taste, smell and sound, they can more easily recall memories of events, people and places from the past.

Because the therapy may stimulate any of the senses, the details of each session vary greatly. They can include simply talking about the past or using objects from the past to help stimulate memories. 

The goal is to help those with dementia feel less isolated and alone. It can also help caregivers better manage the stress associated with providing care for those with dementia.

How We Support Caregivers

The Benefits of Reminiscence Therapy

Experts believe that telling stories about the past helps seniors better connect with the present. It also helps them combat the stress and agitation that comes with losing more recent memories, which often are the first to go. 

In some cases, playing music or showing people pictures of movie stars from when they were young helps them recall fond memories from childhood and young adulthood. This can lead to feelings of confidence in their abilities. It also opens the door to allowing them to talk about events and ideas that continue to hold meaning for them.

Another benefit is that speaking about the past and recalling good memories can help relieve feelings of boredom and depression. For caregivers, it provides family stories that they can tell future generations.

Writing about nostalgia therapy, caregiver Debbie Selsavage said, “Nostalgia Therapy works, and I think it can lead us to even greater understanding and acceptance of what is going on in the mind of a loved one living with dementia.”

She wrote that talking about the past allows caregivers to meet their loved ones in “their reality” as newer memories fade away. Reminiscence therapy also gives a chance for those with dementia to enjoy themselves, a too-rare event for seniors who are slowly losing their memories and, in some ways, their identity.

For caregivers, reminiscence therapy provides another avenue for engaging with their loved ones who are in the early stages of dementia. It can help make a difficult situation at least somewhat easier to manage, and lead to good memories of their own, engaging with their elders and helping them feel a sense of peace.

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