How to Conduct a Reminiscing Session

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How to Conduct a Reminiscing Session

Reminiscing activities are brain-stimulating and have positive impact on Alzheimer's patients. Here is everything you should know to have successful sessions.

When speaking with an Alzheimer’s patient, be careful not to tell them to “remember” something, as this is very frustrating and it puts a lot of pressure on them. Instead, ask them to “reminisce.” Everyone likes to reminisce – even young children like to recall and talk about memories of when they were much younger. We all enjoy talking about happier times, and many older people like to talk about “the good old days” fondly.

Memory care facilities do everything possible to ensure that their patients engage in brain-stimulating activities. It is very important to encourage seniors to recollect and share memories, as this promotes good social interaction and strengthens friendships. These sessions also help the staff understand and get to know the patient, which results in better care.

Reminiscing sessions are useful programs with proven results. To have successful sessions, follow these steps:

Plan the Reminiscing Session

First, put together a list of subjects to start the discussion. Discuss topics that stimulate the five senses, such as favorite recipes (taste), favorite perfume (smell), favorite flowers (smell and sight), photographs of participants in younger days (sight), a cashmere sweater or a kitten (touch), favorite song (hearing).

Some other topics and related questions for discussion are:

  • School days – tell me about your favorite teacher and favorite topic in school.
  • Childhood memories – describe mom’s favorite dress? Dad’s favorite hat?
  • Games and sports – did you ever play tennis? With whom did you practice?
  • Music – do you know how to play a musical instrument?
  • Vacations – what was your favorite vacation? Did you ever go to another country?
  • Depression-era memories – what did mom cook during those days?
  • Holidays – any cherished holiday memories? What was the biggest surprise?
  • Best birthday celebration – who was there, what gift did you get?

The sessions can either be private (one-on-one) or group sessions. For group sessions, gather participants with similar skill sets and level of cognition.

Conducting a Reminiscing Session

The staff should be familiar with the participants’ sensitive personal issues. Look into their family history and find out about things such as family quarrels, loss of loved ones, illnesses and avoid topics that are difficult for the participant to discuss. The participants must know that they are in control of how much personal information they share. They should not discuss anything that is painful or embarrassing to them. Confidentiality must be guaranteed – never share anything in a group setting which is deeply personal and was disclosed privately. The staff members must be patient and understanding during the private interview.

If the participant gets emotional and sheds a tear or two, kindly give them a moment to compose themselves and then change the topic to happier memories.

The length of the Reminiscing session

The reminiscing session should last about an hour, or as needed – this depends on the participant’s cognition and concentration level. Stop if they appear overwhelmed or upset.

Documenting information from a Reminiscing Session

Ask the participant if he is comfortable with having the session videotaped. If not, take notes to ensure that all memories are captured during the session. Review the footage (or notes) after the session and look for areas of improvements in future sessions.

Other tips:

  • Don’t interrupt the participants, let them complete their thought process. Be sensitive to their privacy. Don’t press on topics they are not comfortable discussing. If the participants tend to repeat themselves or forget the point they were trying to make, gently return the conversation to a comfortable topic.
  • Be sensitive to their privacy. Don’t press on topics they are not comfortable discussing. If the participants tend to repeat themselves or forget the point they were trying to make, gently return the conversation to a comfortable topic.
  • Don’t press on topics they are not comfortable discussing. If the participants tend to repeat themselves or forget the point they were trying to make, gently return the conversation to a comfortable topic.
  • If the participants tend to repeat themselves or forget the point they were trying to make, gently return the conversation to a comfortable topic.