The nature of Alzheimer’s disease is such that recent memories often vanish while memories of people and events from long ago frequently remain strong and remarkably vivid. Thus, experts in the field of memory care suggest that we look for ways to help loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to recall past times that were especially enjoyable or important for them.
Referred to as “Reminiscence Therapy,” helping your loved one to remember the happier times in their life is considered a legitimate and useful form of holistic treatment that offers tangible benefits. Specifically, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that reminiscing about the “good old days” helps loved ones to reconnect with the world while also enhancing their mental state and emotional well-being.
Glenn E. Smith, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, underscores the importance for caregivers to help their loved ones recall pleasant memories from their past. In the article, “Alzheimer’s and Memories: Use Mementos as Cues” he states, “Caregivers become the memory for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. By gathering memories, you can bring important events and experiences from your loved one’s past into the present. You’re the link to his or her life history.”
A Loving Link to Happier Times
Ms. Shellie Kermin, Community Relations Director of North Woods Village at Edison Lakes says,“A nice way to help your loved one relive past memories is to create what is called a ‘memory box.’ It serves as a convenient, single source for storing items that have meaning and importance for your loved one and evoke pleasant thoughts of days gone by. By gathering various mementos from their past that have special meaning and sharing them with your loved one, you can take them back to happier days and start conversations that both of you will enjoy.”
Important Ways a Memory Box Helps Your Loved One
The article, “5 Reasons to Make a Memory Box for Alzheimer’s Patients,” lists the important benefits a memory box can offer to you and your loved one, including:
- Recalling fond memories of youth, personal interests, children and events that have special meaning.
- Inspiring conversation with caregivers, children or grandchildren.
- Spurring creativity in them to create another box about a different life event or memory.
- Exercising touch and other senses that they will increasingly rely on as Alzheimer’s progresses.
- Providing you with more insight into your loved one and their past history. When you search for keepsakes, you may find special items you did not realize they had.
How to Create a Meaningful Box of Memories
According to the article, “Creating a Memory Box,” the sense of touch can trigger memories in a way that other forms of communication cannot. To stimulate tactile memories for a family member with dementia, first figure out what items may hold special significance for that person. Did your loved one play a sport? An instrument? Spend a lot of time in the kitchen? The garden? The workshop? Then collect relevant items to use when they need to be calmed or comforted.
To get you started, experts in reminiscence therapy offer the following examples to help you get started. As you create your unique box of memories, be sure that all of the items you gather will evoke positive memories:
- Family photo albums
- A letter with special sentimental value
- Artwork by children or grandchildren
- Dried flowers
- Items of favorite sports teams
- Vacation souvenirs
It is suggested that when you first open the memory box with your loved one, ask them to select a favorite item and talk to you about it. The memory box can open a treasure trove of wonderful moments from their past that both of you will enjoy.
Help Is Available for Caregivers
Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive residential Memory Care Communities (MCCs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.
Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.
For more information and helpful resources, contact us today!