Reminiscence in Dementia: Reminiscence Groups

Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed how reminiscence can help a person with dementia, helping to maintain linguistic and cognitive function and increasing quality of life. We’ve touched on memory books and using sensory boxes to assist in recalling and organizing meaningful memories. Today, we’ll talk about the benefits of reminiscence groups in helping people with dementia to connect with their past.

While any type of reminiscence can be fulfilling, sharing past experiences with those who are also struggling with dementia can be particularly rewarding. In addition, the conversational give-and-take of a group also relieves some of the pressure that may accompany being the sole story-teller. Here are some tips for organizing and running a reminiscence group:

• The group should be large enough to get a variety of experiences and backgrounds, but small enough to retain a sense of intimacy. Five or six members is typically ideal.

• Provide a topic to guide each meeting. The topic should be narrow enough to facilitate a focused discussion, but not so narrow that people may be excluded or have difficulty recalling relevant memories. If possible, provide the topic for the following week at the end of each session to give members a chance to prepare.

• If appropriate, invite group members to bring photographs or personal items from their past that relate to the following week’s topic.

• As group leader, ask relevant, open-ended questions as each member shares to facilitate the reminiscence. Invite other group members to do the same.

• If a member of the group seems uncomfortable or bothered by a particular topic, shift the conversation to a different theme as naturally as possible. Never push someone to share a memory if they seem hesitant, no matter how benign it may seem.

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

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