As part of Dementia Awareness Week 2015, Care Shop are helping to raise awareness of reminiscence therapy and the various products and activities available to help dementia patients. Dementia Awareness Week, which takes place between 17-23 May this year, is an important date in the health calendar with more than 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, and many more being affected as a result of a loved one suffering.
This week, there will be numerous campaigns and articles from organisers of Dementia Awareness Week, the Alzheimer's Society in particular, focus on the symptoms and causes of the condition, as well as possible cures, preventative measures and treatments. Our guide is all about reminiscence therapy, which is a therapeutic intervention that focuses on the life of the individual with the aim of improving or maintaining good mental health.
Reminiscence therapy uses life histories, either written, oral or pictorial, to try and improve the well-being of patients with dementia. It has been shown to have very positive effects on the patient, as well as helping those who provide care to have a better understanding of the person that they are caring for. As such, there is a growing number of products available to help individuals and care homes provide the required resources. Before we take a look at some of the products and activities available for effective reminiscence therapy, here is how the therapy can help to stimulate each of the five senses.
Certain patterns or even colours can be instrumental in bringing back memories from earlier in a patient’s life. These visual stimuli can include photographs or films that may have some specific relevance to an important part of a patient’s history. These autobiographical memories can then be explored further to help the person build up a bigger memory picture, especially with encouragement.
The olfactory memory is incredibly powerful, with human beings able to distinguish between over 3,000 different and distinct smells. This is far more than we can ascertain through taste. A certain scent can transport us through time and space to a very specific point, so it is a very useful tool for establishing memories in dementia patients and opening a discussion in therapy. It could be anything from the smell of flowers to a particular bathroom soap that can provoke these memories.
While not as powerful as smell, gustatory priming using recipes, drinks and even spices can indicate significant trends and occurrences in a person’s life. It can help to recall holidays, particular cooking styles, or even specific meals. It is also very useful when referencing particular regions or periods of time when certain foods were in vogue.
Tactile stimulation can help patients with dementia to recall certain memories. Fabrics like fur or silk, blankets, or even the feel of clothes can stimulate memories and open up a discussion pathway. Certain materials, such as chalk, can recall school days, or materials such as sand may help patients to remember specific seaside holidays.
Audio pieces that are personal to the patient are extremely useful. Voice recordings or songs with specific relevance can be great memory cues. Music is an especially useful tool, with certain pieces being tied to periods in our lives. Carefully selected songs can be a great starting point for therapeutic discussions.
Reminiscence therapy products
There are numerous products on the market to help stimulate these senses and aid reminiscence therapy. A memory game is a great way of encouraging people to remember certain points in time in an engaging way. Because it is interactive and numerous people can play, patients can even help each other to remember certain facts about the past that can act as triggers.
Other games such as jigsaw puzzles can also help to aid memory recall and act as valuable cues, with the additional benefit of helping to maintain dexterity and problem solving abilities in the patient. For something more personal to the individual, creating a memory box where certain items, including photos, fabrics and even scents, can be stored together forms a concentrated set of cues that can aid reminiscence and memory recall. These act as valuable landmarks, especially if the patient has recently moved into care accommodation.
With regards to visual stimulus, time specific cues such as a 1940's or 1950's picture book can help patients to remember certain periods of their lives. Through further work with a therapist, these memories can be extrapolated and expanded to include specific events and people. Similarly, themed picture books, such as the seaside or garden, can help to trigger memories of places relevant to the patient. This could include specific holidays or eras of their lives they may otherwise struggle to recall.
Reminiscence therapy activities
As well as using visual, oral and written stimuli, it can also help to physically visit places and people that can trigger memories. A day trip to the seaside organised by the care home, a trip to see a musical performance, or a cinema excursion can all help as part of a wider therapy. It’s important to remember that even small events can help to cue memories, even if they don’t seem to have any noticeable effect at the time.
To sum up, reminiscence therapy is a broad programme that aims to gently and repetitively help patients to exercise their memories and improve their mental well-being. Dementia Awareness Week is so important in helping to promote this valuable form of treatment - one that is more in demand and necessary than ever before. Do your part for Dementia Awareness Week by spreading the word, and perhaps broadening the variety of dementia care products in your care home.
To help with this, Care Shop are offering 20% off all Dementia Care products throughout Dementia Awareness Week. Take advantage of the offer, here.