Reminiscence therapy is the use of life histories to improve a person's psychological health. Using pictures, video clips, objects or the written word, an individual can evoke a deep memory from an individual with dementia. In order to help trigger the memory, the stimulants should be representative of or from the time of the individual's younger years. For example, while you may not have pictures of the person as a child, pictures taken in the area where and from when they grew up may be familiar enough to cause a memory to surface. During a therapeutic period, the person may not talk about the contents of the stimulus; but may discuss other topics which are connected emotionally for that person.
Reminiscence therapy benefits a person by getting them communicating and focusing on positive associations. Making a connection and sharing their thoughts helps the individual feel valued. The conversation itself can be interesting and funny and who doesn't like a good conversation?
Lyn has several photo albums that she used to go through fairly regularly. While she doesn't much anymore, she will go get one and sit with you to look through it. Looking through pictures of Albuquerque from the time of Lyn's life makes me realize that despite the growth of the city, much of it still looks the same or has enough of the same flavor that picking out the age of a picture can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes, we have to look to the type of photograph to help us determine the age of the image.
When you sit with Lyn and go over her photos, I find she doesn't make the connections that other dementia patients may be able to make. For example, she can't tell you what movie was her childhood favorite or tell you about the time that Mom took us to see Star Wars when it was in the theaters. A picture won't cause her to think of a meal, a song or even the seasons. She might, on rare occasions, think about someone who is not pictured.
This difference is really nothing new with her. While she enjoys music, I cannot remember a song that she felt a strong emotional connection. I really think her inability to express connected memories is a result of how her memories were stored through out her entire life and not a result of her Alzheimer's.