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What is Reminiscence Therapy?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Reminiscence therapy is an activity used with the elderly to promote the telling of memories and the sharing of stories, and helps people connect to one another and practice self-expression. It is helpful as a exercise to stimulate the parts of the brain that are used for long term memory, and can be an extremely helpful activity for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Reminiscence therapy can be done as a one-on-one activity or in a group setting, and a facilitator usually brings props and memory aids to help in producing a memory. Sometimes family members who act as caregivers for the elderly person are also involved in the activity.

There are three types of reminiscence therapy, including simple, evaluative, and offensive-defensive reminiscence. Simple therapy allows a person to reflect and tell a story about the past, and allows someone to reveal individual characteristics and personal details. A facilitator may bring in photographs, music, audio recordings or personal objects for the person. Evaluative is a type of elder counseling that prompts the person to talk about issues, decisions and events of their life, and a facilitator may be a counselor or therapist who is able to help the person examine their life’s events. Offensive-defensive therapy happens when a memory brings up unresolved and often painful memories, and the facilitator will work with the patient to resolve the person’s feelings and work through the healing phase.

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Reminiscence therapy provides many benefits for the elderly, those with brain disorders, and people who may have experienced an injury that caused damage to their short- or long-term memory. This type of counseling helps to improve life satisfaction by allowing patients to tell pleasurable memories and work through unpleasant events. It allows people to connect with other members of a group or family members, because the person is given a platform to reveal personal information and stories that showcase their abilities. The elderly are able to share their life experiences and advice with younger generations, helping them to reflect on their accomplishments. It also is a practical exercise to prompt those with degenerative brain disorders to practice communicating and sharing their emotions with caregivers and professionals.

Facilitators should be patient with those in reminiscence therapy, as some people may seem to be resisting the exercise when they actually are just having trouble formulating their thoughts and communicating their memories. Those involved in the activity should be seated at the same level, and the facilitator should maintain eye contact with the person speaking. Using props that also relate to the person’s life should be incorporated into the activities to help the person relate past events from their long-term memory with their current lifestyle.

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