Reminiscence therapy is a proven, valuable psycho-therapeutic approach to dealing with mild or moderate dementia. It uses the reconnection with past experiences through the 5 senses as a therapy - to ground people in their lives and feel more connected with themselves. Visual items such as pictures or film are most often used but the other senses can be equally effective.
With Reminiscence Therapy, one, or more, of the 5 senses is engaged to bring a person back to a specific time in their lives and reach in to their long-term memory. RT is not just talk therapy and vocal reminiscence – though these are effective – equally the smell of a bar of soap or a song from that time when they were vibrant and full of hope can bring dementia sufferers into a much more positive and communicative mood. Even a trip to the hairdressers can trigger positive memories though touch and smell. It is a proven benefit to the cognitive abilities - thinking, reasoning, understanding learning and remembering – of a person with mild to moderate dementia as well as to their mood and communication.
Care workers themselves are shown to benefit from engaging in Reminiscence Therapy. Understanding a person’s social, spiritual and cultural background helps a care worker to deliver truly person-centred care and thereby improve work satisfaction. But the relationship between a care giver and care recipient should be a personal, as well as professional, one. Hearing how granny drove an ambulance during the war, or discussing the merits of pears soap versus life buoy, enhances the relationship between a care giver and receiver in a profound way by allowing a care worker to see and connect with the person beyond the diagnosis.
The highly respected Cochrane collaboration uses meta-analysis to systematically review randomized, controlled trials in health care. Its review shows that Reminiscence Therapy can improve communication, mood and cognitive ability in people with mild to moderate dementia and is beneficial to both service provider and service user.
And what that really means is that the old lady making jam 40 years later is back again in her kitchen garden and doing something positive, the old gentleman, sitting silently and refusing to engage, moves over to the pianist and joins in her song and the old lady, confused and unsettled is brought back to her own sense of self with the scent of Lily of the Valley,