Rediscovering memories can help those struggling with age-related issues or memory care conditions remember or enjoy reminiscing about various aspects of their lives. While medical intervention is sometimes necessary, there are plenty of ways to help someone rediscover memories through lifestyle shifts, fun activities and even seemingly mundane tasks like upkeep on living spaces.
Sensory stimulation therapy relies on the five senses — sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing — to stimulate memories. It may be implemented in any number of ways. For instance, drawing sometimes helps with memory recall because it involves seeing something familiar in a piece of art or being aware of the feeling of a drawing utensil in your hand.
Smelling different scents might evoke the memory of a person, place or time, while feeling different fabrics can also trigger life memories. Even those with memory conditions that have rendered them non-communicative might find that sensory stimulation therapy is helpful as a form of communication and a way to rediscover memories.
Sensory-rich materials are ideal for this form of therapy because they are also calming and may stimulate more than one sense at a time. This therapy may also include activities such as taking a walk outside or listening to music. It may consist of a shoulder or hand massage or reading out loud.
It's a highly individual form of therapy, as it's specific to the situation in question. What works for one person might not work for another, depending on the extent of their memory condition and their desire for this form of therapy.
Memory boxes are also good ways to rediscover memories because they serve as visual photo and trinket albums. Consider placing a memory box in a prominent spot where you or your older loved one will see it every day. Place significant photos, mementos and other personal items that have some relevance to past events, people and feelings inside.
You can even change the memory box according to holidays or special occasions, which may help with the process of rediscovering memories even more or keeping track of time throughout the year. The more festive and fun you make the process of putting together a memory box, the more likely it is that you or your loved one might interact with it often.
Memory journals function as a written record of someone's life. Set aside time daily or weekly to write down your memories or work with a loved one to record what they might remember. It doesn't have to be structured; you can write them down as you remember them or categorize them by personal, family or professional memories.
You might opt to keep memory journals to yourself for rediscovering memories on your own, or you might opt to share them with loved ones as you write in them. If you're working with a loved one who has memory care issues, you could read selections from the journal often to help them keep those memories fresh or just to talk about them.
Memory journals can be as detailed and creative as you desire. There are no rules when it comes to these journals. Remember, this is a way for you to get the details of your or someone else's memories down on paper so you have a reference should you need one down the road. This is especially true of those memories that may not be as pertinent as others. The details of those memories tend to fade faster than significant moments in your life.
So, have fun with your journal. Add photographs, stickers, colorful borders or other adornments to make it visually appealing. Think of it as a memory scrapbook, where you are recording your big, beautiful life. Make sure that the journal reflects how much you've lived or the personality of a loved one you're assisting. Ultimately, this will increase the chances that you will write in it more often.
Engage in basic tasks to maintain a sense of routine and thus continue to train your brain to remember important information. Even something as simple as cooking or cleaning can help someone rediscover memories, especially if there are important moments attached to those tasks.
For example, perhaps you or your loved one had children that you taught to cook. Cooking later in life might trigger memories you or they have forgotten of those lessons, bringing back fond recollections of your children when they were younger. Or perhaps you enjoyed cooking with a spouse. Cooking a dish you once made together might bring back a funny story or a loving memory. So while basic tasks might seem like a less creative way to rediscover your memories, they're still a highly effective approach.
Rediscovering memories is a different process for everyone, and everyone will have varying levels of success with such activities. However, putting some fun tips to the test is well worth the effort to hang on to those memories most important in someone's life.
Residents in the memory care level of care at Autumn View Gardens in St. Louis, MO, are encouraged to participate in many activities to help support memory and other cognitive functions. If you're interested in this level of care for your loved one, reach out for more information.