Dementia can sometimes have an impact on cognitive ability and result in difficulty recalling memories. Whilst there are many different factors to consider in order to live a happy, healthy and active life with dementia, along with everyday physical needs, mental wellbeing should also be at the forefront of care.
Here we will discuss how photographs can provide an excellent basis for reminiscence and help to spark memories in those living with dementia, which can in turn help to improve mood and overall wellbeing.
What is Reminiscence
Reminiscence is the act of sharing life experiences and stories from the past and can include anything from thinking about a certain time, to openly discussing and talking about it. Those living with dementia can often benefit from reminiscence based activities, as whilst they may find difficulty in recalling recent memories, it is often the case that longer term memories can be triggered. The act of sparking these memories and encouraging conversations surrounding them can be highly beneficial for boosting mood and improving mental wellbeing.
There are many different reminiscence based activities which are designed to help spark memories in those living with dementia, but one of the most effective tools is to actively ‘show’ a memory. The ability to actually see a particular time from the past is unique and ideal for evoking thoughts and memories, which may not be achieved just by conversation alone.
By using photographs, you can transport someone back to a particular time, open discussions about the photograph and what it depicts, and help to encourage conversation. Memories from a long time ago may have a lot of emotion associated with them, which is why they remain in our mind the longest. When conducting a reminiscence based activity utilising photographs, why not select the ones which have positive memories associated with them, such as a wedding, birthday, holiday or celebration.
Along with exploring emotions with photographs, they can also be highly useful for recalling a particular point in time, place or person. Whilst it can be difficult to describe these things to someone living with dementia to aid them in memory recall, by providing a still image of the place or person, it can help to take them back and encourage conversations surrounding the image.
Activities Using Photographs
The photograph can be utilised in many different ways, from simply choosing one meaningful image such as a persons wedding day and asking gentle questions surrounding it to encourage conversation to incorporating images into activities. Below are just some excellent activities which are ideal for someone living with dementia, to aid in reminiscence, whilst utilising photographs.
A great activity utilising photographs is to create a scrapbook together. Why not photocopy the originals so you can do this activity time and again, whilst keeping the originals intact. The act of creating the scrapbook can be interspersed with questions about each photograph which can help encourage conversation. Creating a scrapbook is an excellent engaging and creative activity which is highly suited for someone with dementia.
Memory boxes can be brilliant for looking back on over time and aiding with sensory exploration. Choose some objects which can go alongside the photographs such as a loved ones perfume, an item of clothing or jewellery or anything else which may have significance for your loved one. The sensory aspects alongside the photographs can greatly help to improve memory recall, as often our memories can be linked to particular sounds, smells or tastes.
Making a memory box can help to spark memories, inspire conversation and can involve both the person living with dementia and their carers and loved ones.
Should your loved one not have any photographs, or perhaps you want to encourage conversations surrounding other images, why not use other resources such as magazines or postcards. Cutting out and showing the person living with dementia an image which may have meaning to them, such as someone doing a hobby they enjoyed, a particular place they visited on holiday or a sport can all help to spark memories, encourage conversations and boost mood.
Another great activity involving photographs is to create a timeline together. Gather a series of images of your loved one or family members and put together a timeline of their life. The act of seeing photographs from different times can help to spark memories.
There are many more activities which would be highly beneficial for someone living with dementia and can help to spark memories, conversation and improve mood. When considering which activity is most suited to your loved one, think about the things they enjoy doing and try to incorporate them. Remember when conducting a reminiscence activity not to pressurise your loved one in to remembering a particular time or person, as this may cause agitation; keep questions and statements gentle and be patient, and the activity can prove highly rewarding for all.