Therapeutic Reminiscing: The Value of Storytelling for Those with Alzheimer’s


Unrecognizable seniors remembering their old times by looking at photo album.

It might seem contradictory to think about reminiscing as a reputable treatment for memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. While it’s true that Alzheimer’s can take away a person’s ability to remember newly learned information and even personal details, often times their long-term memories remain intact. Families of individuals with memory loss have found that reminiscing together benefits their loved one’s emotional health in a number of ways.

“Reminiscing becomes a kind of therapy for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” explains Ruth Cantillon, Director of Sales and Marketing at Osprey Lodge, an assisted living and memory care community in Tavares, FL. “Encouraging your loved one to retell stories from the past and recount important life events may not greatly improve their cognitive abilities, but it can give them some affirmation of their identity, at least for the moment. For someone lost in the mind of dementia, recollecting a past part of themselves can improve their state of mind by helping them express themselves in the present.”

Benefits of Therapeutic Reminiscing

Reminiscing with someone with Alzheimer’s, also referred to by experts in the industry as reminiscence therapy, gives an individual the chance to reconnect with his or her past, as well as create a stronger bond with those present, to bring about feelings of accomplishment or satisfaction as they dwell on important parts of their lives.

So far, the greatest sources of evidence for the benefits of reminiscence therapy are the firsthand accounts of family members and caregivers of those with memory loss. However, a group of scientists from the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Wales compiled and reviewed various studies on the topic, concluding that reminiscing has a significant ability to improve mood and behavior as well as some cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Reminiscing is also considered by the Alzheimer’s Society as a holistic, non-medicinal way to treat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Key benefits of reminiscing include:

  • Stimulating Cognition – Talking about events from the past can be a type of mental exercise as the person works to put memories together to tell a story.
  • Prompting Memory – Clues about the past, such as photographs, songs or a visit with an old friend, can tap into memories that still exist. Being able to share memories with others again can bring back a feeling of normalcy.
  • Improving Mood – Reminiscing on special moments can help emotional expression, allowing the person to bring to life the feelings they can’t always articulate. It also transitions their focus and attention from the frustrating symptoms of their disease to the valuable parts of their life.
  • Enhancing Self-Esteem – Living with Alzheimer’s and its challenges can make a person feel as though they are no longer valuable. However, thinking back on their accomplishments, relationships and obstacles they overcame can boost their sense of self-worth and affirm their identity.
  • Building Connections – Sharing memories about life’s important stories and details can help others get to know the person with Alzheimer’s. This is exceptionally beneficial when the listener is a new caregiver who can use their knowledge of the person to build a relationship and provide personalized care.

Using Therapeutic Reminiscing with Your Loved One

Reminiscing can come about organically, but sometimes you may need some help to get your loved one engaged with telling stories. Here are a few creative ways to use both verbal and sensory cues to encourage your loved one to reminisce about their life story:

  • Keep a Memory Box – Fill a box with meaningful keepsakes from your loved one’s life, such as souvenirs from trips, gifts from a spouse or any other special items they’ve held on to. Use the items as conversation starters and ask them questions about the people or events each item represents.
  • Create a Life Story Book – Make a scrapbook of your loved one’s life, writing down their personal history and recording their most memorable life events. Add photos, old letters and other memorabilia. Creating the book will give you and your loved one something fun to do together, and once it’s finished, the book will be a useful tool whenever your loved one wants to reminisce.
  • Browse Old Photos – Look through old photo albums or watch home videos to reminisce about times you shared together.
  • Have a Conversation – Reminiscing can begin simply by asking a question. Be a good listener so you can keep the conversation going. While the options listed above provide an extra level of engagement, the most important part of reminiscence therapy is sharing your story with someone who cares.

Personal Memory Care to Match Each Story

Reminiscing one-on-one with your loved one can provide wonderful benefits for their self-esteem and emotional well-being, but sometimes it’s difficult to engage your loved one on your own. Memory care communities, such as Osprey Lodge, often utilize group reminiscing, where loved ones can gather and share memories together, led and encouraged by a professional memory care expert.

At Osprey Lodge, we believe the best memory care isn’t confined into a one-size-fits-all package. Instead, each resident has their own individualized care plan and becomes a valuable member of our community. “Memory care residents at Osprey Lodge enjoy a lifestyle that matches their personalities,” shares Cantillon, “and activities that are varied and suitable to their interests. We get to know our residents for who they were before the Alzheimer’s – and who they are now – so when we use therapies like reminiscence, we are already familiar with their life stories and know just what to say to keep the stories coming.”

If you would like to learn more about memory care at Osprey Lodge, contact us today or visit our website.

Come Flourish at Osprey Lodge!

Located on the banks of Lake Frances, Osprey Lodge offers Assisted Living and Memory Care services within the rustic warmth of a Colorado lodge in the rolling hills of central Florida. We provide an environment of socialization and volunteerism, as well as dependable health care services that promote independence, self-direction, social connections and daily purpose.

The Lodge lifestyle is a unique approach to senior living. While aging does come with challenges, our culture of connections creates an environment for residents to find daily purpose and joy. Here, residents don’t lose their independence. Instead, they receive countless avenues for which to connect with others through social activities or volunteer opportunities. We believe that everyone has something to contribute to their community, and we consider it our mission to help residents find what they can give – their skills, talents, company and enthusiasm.

Residents in our Assisted Living community and Memory Care program experience personalized, comprehensive healthcare services from dedicated, experienced professionals and staff. Each resident works with us to create their own Personal Care Plan, designed specifically for them to enjoy optimal independence while receiving the quality care they require.

We invite you to learn more about the fulfilling lifestyle and serves available at Osprey Lodge. Contact us today!