For older adults with dementia, long-term memories are like best friends. The right stimuli can light up the mind, foster happiness, promote better mental function, and offer a sense of security. To stimulate your loved one’s memory, you need to know what he or she holds dear from yesteryear. Here are a few ways to enhance your loved one’s memory.
Create a Treasure Box
Gather items recalling your loved one’s happy times and assemble them in a keepsake box. Seeing and touching personal treasures can evoke memory and create a desire to talk about past events. Socializing offers several benefits for seniors with dementia, such as slowing memory loss, enhancing focus, raising self-esteem, and building personal connections.
The treasure box can be made from a wicker basket, jewelry box, plastic bin, or another item that is easy to lift. The box should also be able to fit in your loved one’s lap or on a small table.
Fill the container with objects of personal value for your loved one. Examples include family photos, souvenirs, small trophies, a favorite perfume, postcards, toys, heirlooms, and holiday ornaments. If your loved one is in the advanced stages of dementia, label the items with tags and stickers to aid recognition.
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Record an Interview
Invite your loved one to recall a fond memory, and videotape the narration. To document the interview, obtain a video recorder with an external microphone. Sample topics include a joyful event, accomplishment, celebration, special skill, or someone your loved one cherishes.
Then, compile a list of open-ended questions requiring more than one-word answers. To aid remembrance, prepare props that invoke memory such as a photograph or trophy. If your loved one doesn’t recognize the prop at first, commenting on one of its features may help.
In the event your loved one wavers from the topic or cannot find the right words, guide him or her with brief, suggestive remarks. Rather than asking for details and facts, urge your loved one to talk about his or her feelings. Consider ending the interview by asking if your parent has any words of wisdom for the listeners.
Caring for older adults with dementia can take a toll on a caregiver’s health. Family caregivers need to care for their own wellbeing. If you are caring for an aging loved one and are feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional caregiver to provide respite care. Edmonton families who want to avoid burnout can turn to Home Care Assistance. One of our professional caregivers can assist your loved one at home while you take a nap, go to work, run errands, or go on vacation.
Play Their Favorite Music
Many seniors in the later stages of dementia enjoy listening to music. Hearing songs from the past may help your loved one remember places, words, and people. Listening to favorite tunes can sharpen alertness and perception and facilitate recall. Consider pairing daily tasks with popular tunes and coaxing your loved one to croon along.
There are several ways to tap memories using music. Keep a few radios around the home, tune to a golden oldies station, or provide CD players and albums by favorite artists. If you have a USB, use it to download audio files to an iPod or MP3 player. In the event your loved one is a former musician, provide his or her chosen instrument.
Another easy option is making a playlist of beloved songs using a music app called SPARK Memories Radio. The app is designed by a dementia researcher and available for both Apple and Android devices. SPARK streams old music from any smartphone or tablet.
Engage Their Sense of Smell
Certain aromas can prompt warm memories and comfort. An example is a woman smelling cinnamon and recalling baking with her mom. The scent of leather could remind a man of playing catch with his dad, using a baseball glove.
The remembrance of smells or “olfactory memory” is cataloged in the brain. The hippocampus is the brain region that processes and retains memories, and the amygdala enables people to feel emotions. Smelling odors stimulates both memories and their associated feelings.
Use fond fragrances to elicit alertness and contentment. To know which scents your loved one favors, take note of his or her comments when smelling different aromas. Consider buying candles, soaps, flowers, herbs, fruits, body lotions, aftershave, perfumes, and colognes. Mist your loved one’s linens and clothing with fragrance sprays. Using a reed or machine diffuser, you can scent the air with essential oils.
Another option is sharing activities that emit comforting odors, such as gardening, baking, popping corn, and folding laundry, or take your loved one to a place that smells delightful, such as a forest, park, bakery, or eatery.
Assemble a Photo Album or Scrapbook
Preserve old photographs in an album or scrapbook. When your loved one views the pictures, he or she may recall good times from the past.
To personalize the album, label the binder with your loved one’s name on the front. If there’s a picture of your loved one smiling, affix it to the cover. Then, mount the photos on the pages in chronological order, creating a timeline. If possible, let your loved one position the images, and help him or her write captions and headings.
If your loved one has mementos and souvenirs, include them in the album, creating a scrapbook. Supplies you’ll need include cardstock, sheet protectors, acid-free adhesive, scissors, trimmers, colored and patterned papers, pens, and embellishments such as ribbon, buttons, beads, charms, pressed flowers, sequins, and stickers.
Hiring a professional caregiver is one of the best ways to help your parent manage the symptoms of dementia. Families looking for top-rated Edmonton senior care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones. To create a comprehensive in-home care plan for your elderly parent, give us a call at (780) 977-7379 today.