Dementia is a brain disease that results in the loss of cognitive functioning in a person including thinking, remembering, and reasoning and as the disease progresses one may need assistance in even simple tasks like dressing, bathing, and moving among other things. Dementia is caused when there is damage or loss of nerve cells and problems with their connections in the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Most forms of dementia are irreversible although the symptoms can be managed to make the life of a patient suffering from better. (Also read: Dementia risk associated with faster accumulation of cardiovascular risk factors: Research). One of the things that can help patients of dementia, according to a study published in The National Institute for Dementia Education, is discussing past events with them and making them go through photos of those events which helps improve general cognitive performance. This is called reminiscence therapy and it helps evoke memories, stimulate mental activity and improve well‐being.
Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Geriatric Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, in an interview with HT Digital explains what the therapy is about and its benefits for dementia patients.
What is reminiscence therapy
Reminiscence therapy (RT) involves remembering of past activities, events and experiences with another person or group of people, usually with the help of prompts such as photographs, household and other familiar items or music from the past. These may be positive or negative experiences which invoke a change in emotion and memory. It is widely used as a form of treatment in dementia.
Benefits of reminiscence therapy
- As person with dementia (PWD) can remember old memories, they are able to recall those past events clearly, so reminiscence draws on this strength.
- Even if the person with dementia cannot participate verbally it can still give them pleasure to be involved in reflections on their past. It can also be a means of distraction if the person becomes upset.
- RT aims to evoke memories, stimulate mental activity and improve well‐being. It can take place in a group or be done with a person on their own, when it often results in some form of life‐story book being created.
- RT also helps older people with depression.
Here are 4 gentle reminiscence therapy activities:
1. Listening to their favourite music. Music helps people reminisce and relate to emotions and past experiences.
2. Look at old photos, keepsakes, or magazines
3. Smell familiar scents, cook or taste favourite foods
4. Enjoy tactile activities like painting or other crafts.