Monday, August 1, 2011

Reminiscing and dementia:The five senses

Activities directors and other healthcare professionals here is a great dementia resource for caregivers and healthcare professinals.

Here is information on being the best caregiver you can be

Here is a way for nurses administrators, social workers and other health care  professionals to get an easyceu or two

Benevolant Society
Hearing Sight Smell Taste Touch
Some older people may no longer have the ability to explain or express their
thoughts through words. Reminiscing is much more then simply talking about
a memory. Reminiscing can involve all the senses.
For people with cognitive impairment and difficulties in communicating
verbally the opportunities offered by a different, non verbal, way of
communicating may be of great importance (Coaten, 2001, p 21).
Providing sensory stimulation through sound, movement, dance, rhythm, beat,
smell, changes in light and colour, objects, tactile surfaces, materials,
vibration, food and experiencing flavour can provide vivid and strong
The persons ability to derive pleasure from the use of some or all of the five
senses is an important strength. Many activities can involve some sort of
sensory stimulation which helps to engage the person with advanced
dementia in a pleasurable activity (Spencer and Joyce,2000, p 18).
Activities mediated through visual and tactile modes can help the person with
dementia in orientation, in feeling safe and in both stimulation and enjoyment
(Armstrong and Wright, 2002, p 19).
The importance of hearing and ‘touch’
thus hearing is a major sense.
Hearing is one of the last senses to go as an older person looses abilities,
non verbal types of communication that can be fully perceived.
Deterioration of other senses can result in touch being the one of the only
This can result in a loss of reality.
If elderly people are not touched they can lose touch with the environment.
their hand and talks to them.
An agitated older person will often relax when someone sits and holds
be faked. So… what is communicated if we do not touch?
(Boney, 1994, pp 26-27)
Touch conveys attitudes and feelings. Touch is something which cannot
The Benevolent Society, 2005,
ABN 95 084 045
Reminiscing Manual version 1,
When reminiscing brings up difficult, sad or
distressing emotions
Not all memories are positive so it is important to ‘check in’ with the person
throughout the reminiscing experience. Keep the following in mind:
not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it is OK for the person explore
their feelings and for these feelings to be acknowledged.
If an older person starts remembering a sad or difficult time in their life it is
These experiences are just as important as happy ones, so don’t feel that
you need to steer discussion on to a happier topic unless it is clear that the
person or group is becoming distressed. Sometimes reminiscence can
lead to feelings of depression and may require one to one follow up (St
George Museum, 2004, pp 6-7).
Often sad experiences will be recalled as part of reminiscence therapy.
When painful emotions arise and the group has difficulty in dealing with it,
the leader should intervene or advice should be sought from staff and
family (Museum Victoria, 1995, p3).
Environments should be supportive and confrontations should be avoided.
Engaging a person in a reminiscing session
Reminiscing one-on-one
reminiscing session:
It is important to gain the attention of the person you will be with during the
Be physically at the same level with the older person.
Make eye contact if possible.
reminiscing objects in a place the person will be able to see as this
will help to make a connection.
If eye contact is not possible be sure to have your hand or the
them through touch, movement, talking or possibly move them to an
area where there will be a difference in light.
If the person has a sight impairment let them know you are with
are minimal distractions and where you will not be interrupted.
Always use a space where the person can feel comfortable, where there
Use the following methods for an introduction:
told you on a previous reminiscence or use an object they reacted
well to previously.
Introduce yourself and possibly mention something the person has
Give the person a clear introduction to the reminiscing session and
they are comfortable with.
Don’t rush the person. Allow time for them to communicate in a way that
The Benevolent Society, 2005,
ABN 95 084 045
Reminiscing Manual version 1,
channels but probably more powerful. Look for the following:
Look for non verbal cues as they are often more subtle than verbal
Watch for facial expressions.
Is the person looking?
Is the person adding a gesture?
If using objects from a reminiscing kit hand the person an object one at a
objects for a long time whilst others for only a short time.
Keep to the pace of the older person. Some people will keep interest in
and that the person knows the reminiscing is coming to an end (Armstrong
and Wright, 2002, p18).
When closing the reminiscence make sure the activity has a formal ending
memory. If someone is thinking about a sad or distressing memory keep
the following in mind:
Check that the older person is not left thinking about a sad or distressing
‘Walk’ the person out of that memory onto another.
Acknowledge how the person is feeling, that their emotions are
(Armstrong and Wright, 2002, p18)
Stay with the person a little longer if time permits.
Tips for successful conversation
Keep the following in mind for clear communication:
they often work better e.g.
Don’t ask specific questions that are closed ask open ended questions as
‘How are you getting on?’
advanced dementia).
‘Please give me some advice on…” ( not suitable for people with
may take a while to get to know the person.
Building up a sense of trust is important. Be realistic and recognise that it
conversation flow under the older person’s control wherever possible.
Allow the person with dementia to set the agenda. Let the topic of
older person time to speak. What may seem like an uncomfortable, silent
wait for us can allow the older person time to gather their thoughts and
Be a good listener. Listening means learning to stop, wait and allow the

The five senses

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