Reminiscence Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease: Bringing Back Memories

Reminiscence Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease: Bringing Back Memories

( – Our memories are a big part of who we are. One reason Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are so devastating is that they strip people of those vital pieces of their lives, shaving away personalities in the process. Sufferers often find themselves trapped in an unfamiliar world that can be as confusing as it is scary.

Fading Memories

Alzheimer’s symptoms result from changes in the brain that cause it to malfunction and atrophy over time. This leads to memory loss, difficulties processing information, impaired judgment and a reduced or lost ability to function. Eventually, sufferers can lose the ability to recognize even their closest loved ones. The personality changes that often come alongside these symptoms can be profound.

Reminiscence Therapy

Reminiscence therapy (RT) is a novel approach to combating some Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms. RT encourages people suffering from memory loss to delve into their past and relive happy or important times. Caregivers offer subtle prompts about specific times or memories, supplementing them with pictures, videos or other objects that can help spark recognition. A recent meta-analysis examining 185 cases showed RT could improve mood, cognition and communication skills, although consistency in results appears to depend on the person and settings involved.

A more intense form of this approach, immersive reminiscence therapy (IRT), could be even more beneficial. IRT takes patients to environments carefully designed to simulate recognizable elements from their youth. While there, caregivers encourage patients to talk about their past. IRT shows huge promise in helping dementia sufferers preserve some of the vital narratives from their life.

Memory Cafes

Memory cafes are places where dementia sufferers and caregivers can socialize and reminisce together about the past. It allows people to connect, break past stigmas and fight the effects of memory loss on a united front. There are over 800 locations in the United States, usually at restaurants, community centers or actual cafes, but some take place at museums, galleries or even farms. Meetings are generally structured around reminiscing and recalling happy memories, and they’re geared toward healing patients and caregivers alike.

Our memories are precious. When they become lost to diseases like Alzheimer’s, the results can be devastating. RT may be able to slow that process by prompting memories back to the forefront, helping to preserve pieces of patients’ lives. Small links to the past may be all some people have; it’s reassuring to know there are people and places dedicated to helping those people stay connected.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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