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Linking the Past to the Present -
The Benefits of Reminiscing

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 4 of 5)

Reminiscence and the Professional Caregiver:

The use of reminiscence can be a worthy addition to staff training in all facilities and organizations that serve older adults. Reminiscing can create opportunities for conversation between staff, clients, and residents and allow more personalized care to take place overall. It can also produce a sense of comfort by connecting people to things that are familiar in the midst of a new environment, such as in this daughter’s shared story.

“My mother’s greatest fear was living in a rest home. Then she began wandering at night, falling, getting lost and mistaking me for people from her past. She was no longer safe, and eventually was admitted to a Memory Loss Unit. She was scared, confused and very difficult for the staff to manage. I was sad and felt I had lost her.

To help staff “know” Mum and to keep her memories alive for her, I wrote out her life story with photos. I enlarged other photos, identified them and put them in a folder. The staff found this very helpful as it gave them things to do with Mum. For example: The staff has learned about Mum through reading her stories. Mum loves her “reminiscence manuals” and her memories are not lost. I found doing these things also helped me get through the first couple of months.

Then came the first Christmas, so Mum’s first Christmas (in the rest home) formed another “manual.” Then, the first birthday at the rest home and so on. I have continued to do these activities and we have one manual of the grandchildren, another of the great grand-children, favorite animals, Mum and the staff and other residents having fun, etc. These are Mum’s latest memories and they will continue.

Ten months have now passed and the manuals continue to grow. If you find yourself in the position I did, I recommend you give the “manuals” a try. Another benefit is that these records and photos are captured for future generations. By sharing the memories with Mum,I realized I had not lost her. How can you lose someone who has her life and happiness sitting in manuals next to her lazy boy, waiting to be shared? And how happy she is when she sees them again (for the first time).” Lesley, caregiver from New Zealand

Reminiscence and Counseling:

Reminiscence is frequently used in counseling therapy. During the process of reviewing life, people often express loss and regret as they look back. Negative or painful events in one’s past may also surface. This has been especially true for veterans, those who have experienced trauma and survivors of the Holocaust.

It is believed that reminiscence can foster personal growth and lead to positive outcomes while the healing of painful memories can occur in the context of a trusting relationship, such as in counseling. One-to-one sessions or group settings are especially helpful and can give people an opportunity to reflect on their lives with an attentive listener or share with others who have faced a common experience. In addition, revisiting or even acting out a difficult experience can help people change perspectives, forgive themselves and others, find closure and put meaning back into past life events. Reminiscence therapy also increases self-assuredness as a person is reminded that he overcame previous difficulties and challenges.


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