Reminiscing is the recollection and retelling of stories from past experiences and events. For seniors, it is important to recollect these experiences to affirm who they are and what their life has meant, not to mention the benefits gained from recalling pleasant memories.
Sharing reminisces provides an opportunity for the senior to be mentally stimulated and pull from their intact memories, helping keep those memories alive. For children, grandchildren and other caregivers, it is priceless to listen to these remembrances and may help improve your ability to care for your senior in the future when you have had this chance to understand them more thoroughly through their life stories.
How Do You Start the Conversation?
Ask open ended questions that will begin the dialogue and then take it from there.
- Where did you live during the depression?
- Where were you doing when the first man landed on the moon or when the space shuttle lifted off?
- Who were you with when you heard that President Kennedy was killed?
- Tell me about your first job, your first bike, your first vacation?
- What states, countries, and continents have you visited?
These and other questions will begin a dialogue between you and your senior loved one that will give them purpose and bring you joy in the retelling. What other questions could you ask that would give you answers you want to hear?
Triggers that Improve the Memories of Seniors
Often certain questions or topics will increase the ability to reminisce for seniors. Ideas that stimulate their five senses can open up their memories. Talking about tastes such as their favorite foods, summer treats or holiday cookies will bring smiles to everyone’s face. The sense of smell such as what odor can you tell a story about-dirty socks from their brother, candles at church, sulfur in the well water or the smell of firework sparklers on the 4th of July should cause your senior to share memories. Sounds such as their baby’s first cry or the siren at the fire station and sights such as buildings in their travels or pictures of their family members will also bring back memories to create stories.
Capturing your Senior’s Memories for the Future
Spending time with your senior, reminiscing about experiences and moments in time gone by can be chronicled by you to share with other family members, friends and future generations. You can create a videography during the storytelling or journal their stories over time to create a family book of memories. This type of precious creation combined with a family tree will be treasured forever.
Benefits of Reminiscing for the Caregiver
Life as a caregiver, especially with someone struggling with dementia, can be isolating. Loneliness is common even when you spend every day with another person who is no longer the person they used to be or able to communicate as they once did. Reminiscing and storytelling can open a path to communication with the person you care for and at the same time give meaning to their life. It can relieve boredom for both you and the one for whom you care.
Be sure to listen attentively no matter what story they tell or if they get lost in the middle. You can ask questions to allow the senior to keep their memories flowing. Remembering can tap into details that are still remembered for the senior who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast or if they ate breakfast at all. It lets them think back to a time when they were active and vibrant and happy. You might be surprised at what you will learn that you did not know previously.
To learn more about how to tackle this with your senior, we suggest downloading The Benevolent Society’s Reminiscing Handbook.
We look forward to hearing how you engaged your senior in a tale of reminiscing. How did you start the story?
Here are a few things we’ve found helpful in reminiscing, with affiliate links to Amazon.com for more info & purchase:
- My Memories Suite 2.0 Digital Scrapbooking Software
- SCRAPabilities Scrapbooking Set My Family
- Reminiscing New Century Board Game