How to Access Long-Term Memories
Dementia is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and can significantly affect a person’s memory. People living with dementia often find it easier to recall long-term memories, such as those from their childhood or early adulthood, then those that happened a few days or minutes ago. Reminiscing activities can help individuals with dementia access long-term memories, stimulate their senses, and improve their quality of life.
Reminiscing activities can include looking through old photos, listening to music, and participating in tactile activities such as pottery, painting, and arts and crafts. These activities can be varied in sensory stimulation to make them particularly effective. In this article, we will explore some reminiscing activities for people living with dementia that you can try at home with your loved one.
Tactile Memory Exercises for Dementia
Having conversations about the past is an excellent starting point for reminiscing activities. It offers you the opportunity to gain insight into a person’s life story and what they used to enjoy. When having conversations about the past, it would be useful to take notes to put together some mentally stimulating activities. Here are some memories to discover that will get you started:
- What did they do for entertainment when they went out?
- What music do they remember?
- Who were the influential people in their life?
- What did they wear?
- What did they do for work?
- Did they enjoy arts and crafts?
- Did they used to go dancing? If so, what type of dance did they enjoy?
Friendly Memory Exercises for Dementia
Engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, writing, and playing games can improve brain health and keep the brain healthy. Triggering sensory responses helps older people stay engaged and pay attention, which reduces the risk of dementia. Here are some brain training activities:
From your list, you should be able to pull together some images to trigger memories and conversation. It would be helpful to place your images into different categories, which will turn into different subjects of conversation. For example, you may have a collection for Hollywood stars of their time, world events, musicians and singers, and other icons relating to the person’s life. You can either print off the images and place them in a book to go through together, or you could have a collection of images on an iPad or laptop.
Music has been shown to effectively engage older people living with dementia. Once you have discovered the types of music the person enjoys, you will be able to find the music on various audio streaming platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon music. You can also use YouTube, which may also provide visual performances of favourite artists.
Singing is great for a person’s well-being, and if your loved one enjoys singing, you can print off some lyrics to their favourite songs, which prompts a sing-along together.
Arts and Crafts
After speaking to your loved one, you may find that they used to enjoy doing arts and crafts in their spare time. If so, the best crafts to choose are ones already familiar to them as they will most likely enjoy the activity again. It’s worth bearing in mind that although they may be familiar with the arts and crafts, they may need extra help in getting back into it again or may need the craft simplified or adapted depending on the craft itself.
Finding items to reminisce can be slightly harder to come by and to store, but keep your eye out when walking past charity shops or car boot sales as you may find items such as hob kettles, postcards, old toys, etc. You may also be able to get access to a person’s keepsake items that you can both touch and talk about. Touching and feeling items is a great way to spark memories and related good feelings.