In her latest blog, our Learning Disabilities Admiral Nurse Jane Nickels shares how to help someone with dementia to discuss their past.
February has been an interesting month, busy but interesting!
Virtual MacIntyre Memory Cafés
We held our second national virtual MacIntyre Memory Café, which was Harry Potter themed. It went well and those that attended enjoyed and took part in a themed quiz. It was down to the wire with the winners, which led us to think about what we were going to do for our next café.
‘Disney!’ was shouted! We then reflected on all the different Disney films that the group had watched over the years and we realised that Disney appeals to people of all ages, so we settled for a Disney music quiz for our next Memory Café. I have a feeling this may turn out to be a Disney karaoke session. Can you guess which film ‘we are Siamese if you please’ comes from?
National Virtual Memory Café: https://www.macintyrecharity.org/events/national-virtual-memory-cafe/
I remember feeling so nervous about doing this talk, but remembering the importance of why I am doing it always helps me to get through public speaking events.
Dying to Talk Project
I attended and will be part of the Dying to Talk Project Steering Group which I’m really excited about, as I can see how this will support my role and is such an amazing, and much needed, project. The project will have expert consultants working alongside us, guiding the project. These experts include Irene Tuffrey Wijne, Beth Britton and Willen Hospice. We cannot wait to see what positive outcomes can be achieved by working together.
How to help people with dementia to discuss their past
Going back to our 'Disney karaoke session', sorry, I meant our Disney themed Memory Café, this got me thinking about how reminiscence therapy supports conversation. For many, it brings back fond memories of childhood, but for some it could be quite difficult to reminisce. So what could we do to help people who want to talk about the past?
Reminiscence therapy involves discussing events and experiences from the past and aims to evoke memories, stimulate mental activity and improve a person’s well-being. Reminiscence can often be supported by props such as videos, music, pictures and objects that may have particular meaning for an individual.
Dementia UK have some really good information about reminiscence and how to support someone to remember you. The information below is from Dementia UK and I’ve popped the links in too if you want to read more about reminiscence. Meaningful activities part four: Reminiscence - Dementia UK
You might want to begin with conversations about the past, you can introduce a topic or an item to look at or handle if this is easier. Engaging in conversation is a good start and helps the person feel that they are important and valued by you, also helping with their sense of being loved and belonging.
Topics you could reminisce about:
- Childhood and earlier holidays
- Favourite playground games/board games
- Likes and dislikes (most people will have a Brussels sprout story!)
- Pets and animals
- Family and relationships
- School days
- Family albums (https://thephotoorganizers.com/reminiscence-therapy/)
- Music; playlists and album covers
- Tactile activities like painting, pottery, or other crafts
Memory boxes containing personal objects from the person with dementia’s past can be used in a variety of ways. They can trigger certain positive memories, support wider family members and friends to stay connected by providing conversation prompts and provide insights into a person’s life story. Memory boxes can often be used in life story work.
MacIntyre’s case study about Barry demonstrates that this doesn’t need to be a box, you could have a 'Memory Table'.
Other ways to reminisce:
- Put up photos around the house of important times in the person’s life, such as weddings, birthdays, parties.
- Show the progression of time in these photos, so that they show the person when young, but also throughout time and how they appear now
- Keep a photo album on display with the photos marked with people’s names, the year and the event, following the progression from the past to the present day
- Wear clothes around the house that the person would associate with you; these could include a favourite item of clothing, or styles from when you were both younger
Below you can find various links to resources that look at different ways to support someone on their reminiscence journey, which I hope you will find useful. Until next month, take care and have a marvellous March!
- Things to try when someone with dementia stops recognising you - Dementia UK
- Life Story - Wellbeing for Life - MacIntyre
- Living Well with Dementia - MacIntyre
- Reminiscence for people with dementia - SCIE
- Reminiscence therapy - Alzheimer's Society