Uncovering Memories

What Is Reminiscence?

When we reminisce, we recall memories, review them, and recapture the emotions that went with them. All of us engage in this reflective process from time to time; it is a normal and vital part of growing older.

Why Is It Important For The Elderly?

In later life reminiscence takes on a more significant role: it's how older adults get in touch with things and times that were important to them. Through reminiscing they find meaning in their memories: this helps to maintain their sense of identity, builds self-esteem and helps raise the overall quality of their lives. At a time when older adults may feel vulnerable, isolated or lonely, recalling and communicating their experiences helps to improve their mental, emotional, social and sometimes physical well-being. In reminiscence, older adults have a powerful, natural resource.

Reminiscing With The Alzheimer Victim

In Alzheimer's disease, memories of the past usually remain much clearer than memories of recent events. It is not surprising that reminiscing can have profound value, especially in the early stages of the disease. Through it, the Alzheimer's victim can be put in touch with a more integrated self. Few activities have as calming an effect on demented patients as speaking about pleasant experiences from the past. By focusing on this remaining skill and using suitable cues and prompts, you can bolster the individual's feeling of self-worth. Reminiscing also enables the person with Alzheimer's to find temporary relief from the harsh reality of their present situation through recalling a more pleasant time.

As an extra benefit, the process of remembering seems to stimulate memory function and may help the mind remain active for longer periods of time.

Following are guidelines for reminiscing with the A.D. victim:


Reminiscing on a one-to-one basis is the most suitable. Group activities are usually too taxing.

Always use a focus for the conversation. People with Alzheimer's have difficulty remembering information for more than a few seconds. A relevant memory prop such as a photo, memento or souvenir will help them stay on track.

Provide stimuli to promote silent reminiscing. Many Alzheimer patients who find it difficult to communicate with others will engage in private reflection. The availability of stimuli such as wall posters, photos and old-time music will facilitate private reminiscence.

Pitch questions at a level within the person's grasp. It is easy to over stimulate or place excessive demands on the Alzheimer patient's abilities.

Your expressions and voice tone are as important as the questions you ask. People with Alzheimer's disease have been found to be very sensitive to nonverbal language.

Go slowly. Allow the person time to absorb questions or stimulus materials. Give her time to respond in if way she is able and don't expect dramatic responses or improvements.

Excerpt from the book: Reminiscence Uncovering a Lifetime of Memories by Carmel Sheridan
You may order this book from: Elder Books
PO Box 490
Forest Knolls
CA 94933
Cost of the book: ($15.95)


Hope our logo helps you find your way back to us.

AIBack to Activities Index