Case studies and articles
Topics covered in this article:Article by Mary Hattie, The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland
People with dementia often have difficulty remembering what's recently happened in their lives. They also have problems with concentration, communication and understanding as their disease progresses. This can leave them feeling confused, vulnerable and less confident, and make it difficult for them to participate in some of the activities they previously enjoyed. This presents challenges for carers when trying to provide social stimulation and enable the individual to participate in meaningful, enjoyable activities.
However, their memories from years ago often remain detailed and intact. Recalling these memories can be immensely therapeutic and enjoyable for them. Allowing them to share their knowledge and skills can help boost self esteem and give them a sense of value and belonging. It can help them maintain their interpersonal skills and assist in reducing anxiety and agitation.
Reminiscence activities give people the opportunity to meet as a group and share their rich stories and experiences. It's very sociable and helps them, and their carers, remember that they are still a real person. This can boost their self-esteem and help them make a valuable connection between the past and the present. Reminiscence can also be done on a one to one basis where it can create a feeling of connection and give special meaning to contact time with others
Reminiscence is frequently used in our own lives as well as in therapeutic settings and residential care. We all use it to cope in times of stress, such as mourning, or to help us repair our self image after a failure or disappointment.
A variety of mediums can assist the act of remembering that use different senses. It means that people who have difficulty communicating verbally can still participate actively in reminiscence; through the use of pictures, music and sound, scent and items which they can handle.
A number of museums across the country provide a reminiscence lending service, where they lend out reminiscence kits containing pictures, familiar items and recordings around a very large number of themes, some specific to their local area.
This is a valuable resource which care homes, hospitals and other groups can access free of charge.
We have listed contact details for a number of museums which provide this service, but this is not an exhaustive list, there may be many more. If there isn't one here for your local area contact your local council museums or libraries department and ask what they can provide.