One of the challenges associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is finding ways to evoke memories and responses from patients. When patients are more actively engaged, they have more vitality and enjoyment.
That’s where a little nostalgia may come in handy.
As many caregivers already know, talking about the past can often help to bring forth buried memories or help jog reactions that form a chain of memories in a person with Alzheimer’s. But it may help to take “living in the past” one step further.
Rather than just talking about the good old days or about what happened when the family went on that special camping trip, it may help to also recreate the past physically for a loved one with dementia.
For example, a person may react to visual stimuli, such as photographs or posters that come from the period in which they grew up or were first married. Personal photographs are good, but one should also think about pictures that evoke the era in general.
For example, a person whose early years were in the 1950s might respond to photographs of big, bulky television sets, President Eisenhower, or Marilyn Monroe. A child of the 1940s may find that “Loose lips sink ships” posters bring back memories.
If visiting a tag sale, be on the look-out for objects that come from an era that is special to a loved one with Alzheimer’s: a book that is identified with a certain time period, a style of alarm clock that is redolent of the period, or a lamp which could only have been manufactured in one particular era.
Aural cues from an earlier era may help as well. Big band records help to bring back the feel of the 1940s, and aging baby boomers may find early Beatles tunes help to raise their interest. Many internet sites have old radio programs and classic TV sitcoms available as well.
Some people find that dedicating one room in the home to a particular period can help to stimulate memories in a loved one with Alzheimer’s. But if that’s not possible, simply bringing in one or two objects can often be enough to dislodge a memory that had been stuck and inaccessible before.
Sharing memories and having conversations with a person with Alzheimer’s helps them enormously – and provides special bonding moments for the caregiver as well.