Dementia affects a significant portion of elderly individuals and is typically a debilitating condition, causing anxiety and confusion in the individual with dementia and stress for family members and caregivers as they see their loved one’s memory and ability to communicate slip away. While there is no cure for dementia, speech-language pathologists enlist a variety of strategies to help individuals with dementia maintain communicative functioning and improve social participation. One is strategy is reminiscence.
Reminiscing is the act of pleasantly reflecting on memories and past events. Some studies have shown that the use of reminiscence with individuals with dementia can help to maintain cognitive function and improve quality of life. Since dementia affects an individual’s ability to recall information, reminiscence is often conducted with a structured approach. A popular approach is the creation of a “memory book”, a physical record of a person’s memories and past experiences. In creating a memory book, a speech-language pathologist or caregiver may sit down with the person with dementia for a set amount of time each day to reminisce. In order to maximize communication and minimize stress, it’s best to choose a quiet, stress-free environment, and meet at the same time each day. The way the speech-language pathologist leads the reminiscence session varies depending on the individual’s stage of dementia. In the early stages, it may only be necessary to introduce a topic or ask a broad question. In individuals with more advanced dementia, they may ask very specific questions with yes/no or multiple choice responses. Throughout the sessions, information is recorded in the memory book, often supplemented with pictures or other visual aids. Each session, the previous information is reviewed and built on.
Some common topics included in memory books are:
- School days
- Past vacations
- Children and grandchildren
- How you met your spouse
- Career achievements
Remember: Each individual with dementia is different, and may find some topics unpleasant or disturbing to think about. If you sense any anxiety about any given topic, redirect the individual and move on to another subject.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty with speech, language, or swallowing, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you or your loved one communicate to the fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills. Call us today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at www.speechassociatesofny.com.