Recalling memories from the past can be a great activity for the person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  As the disease progresses, we see that it is difficult to learn new information but some memories created long ago may remain intact.  With guided discussion, these memories can sometimes be recalled and wonderful dialog can take place.

As a family member or caregiver, keep in mind the age of the person you are caring for.   Use this information to guide your discussion.  For example, let’s consider that someone grew up during the 1940’s.  This is the time of Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart.  World War II was raging during the first half of the decade.  The world was recovering and re-organizing during the second half.  Computers were arriving on the scene.  It’s a Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane were in the cinema.  This type of information can provide useful topics for discussion.  The information is relevant to the time when memories were developed for this person.  The names Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart may trigger memories for this person.  Talk about the war might spark conversation about living conditions, employment and other related events.

The internet is an excellent source of information related to time periods that would be relevant to the person you are caring for.  At KANDU Day Services/Memory Care, we also use a tool called the Leisure Interest Inventory.  It is a comprehensive list of hobbies and activities that people may have been involved in during recreation and leisure throughout their life.  Whether they have a current interest or have participated in named activities in the past is indicated. This allows us to individualize their support while at KANDU.  Again, it also gives us information into the likes/dislikes of the individuals we support.  Along with identifying preferences for activities, it also exposes topics for discussion.  For instance, if a person has been involved in sewing projects in the past, we can use this information to discuss what types of sewing; cross stitch, knitting, crocheting or quilting.  We can ask about favorite fabrics, stitches and projects.  Furthermore, we can gather resources from the library related to sewing.  Books and videos regarding the sewing topic can be provided.  Fabrics and quilts can be brought in to share with the group during discussion.  The number of possibilities seems endless once the leisure interest has been uncovered.

Not every person will respond to memory recall discussions or activities but in a group setting, it can be very effective.  It is a valuable tool that can provide meaningful activity for your loved one. 

Respectfully submitted by:
Julie Smith, Program Manager
KANDU Day Services/Memory Care Program