Reminiscing/reminiscing in dementia: reasons

Older people who suffer from dementia have memory disorders. You support people with Alzheimer’s, for example, in a pleasant way by consciously recalling positive memories with them. The technical term for this activity is reminiscing. This can be done in a group of people with dementia, in a care center, nursing home or in a day care facility. But also one on one at home. The goals of this activation can be to stimulate memory, induce relaxation, and support identity and self-confidence.

Reminiscence: retrieving memories as ‘medicine’ for the less good memory

Purposefully retrieving positive memories of the (distant) past is a useful activity for elderly people with dementia. It is an activity that is done in groups in many care centers and nursing homes as a daytime activity.

Damage to memory in people with dementia

One of the best-known characteristics of dementia is forgetting. These people gradually lose more and more memories. This is caused by damage to their brain. All elderly people with dementia suffer from it to a greater or lesser extent. It starts with forgetting small facts or events from recently and can end with losing all memories of others and one’s own life.

The order in which memories disappear from memory in people with Alzheimer’s

The disappearance of memories happens in a certain order: recent experiences are forgotten first and then the events of, for example, a year ago, a few years ago, a generation ago follow until, for example, one only remembers his or her youth. One day people no longer have a sense of time (day, date, season, year). They no longer know where they are: the nursing home seems unfamiliar to them. The house where they lived as adults becomes forgotten, until sometimes they only remember the house of their youth. And even that can disappear from their memory.

The painful consequences of memory loss

Forgetting this is a painful process, both for the sick themselves and for their family, friends, acquaintances and other informal caregivers.
Consequences of memory loss for the person with dementia
For people who are going through the process of dementia, it means that they lose control of their lives and their environment. This can cause great fear, uncertainty and anger. Imagine: you don’t know where you are, you don’t know those people sitting in ‘your’ living room, someone comes in and greets you warmly, but who on earth is that? And even worse: you no longer know who you are, what you did and what you could do. How many children did you have? What was your profession? You want to go home, but how do you get there? Where is your car? And why are they holding you back? Why can’t you go home?
Consequences of the deterioration of memory for informal caregivers
It is also bad for informal caregivers. Your father or mother or partner forgets the ‘most normal’ things. You seem to have less and less in common with these precious sick people. Your mother doesn’t remember who your children are. She thinks you just came home from school as if you were still that girl from before. Your father, with whom you always talked about sports, has forgotten all his sports heroes.
One way to deal with this and temporarily soften the consequences is to retrieve (joint) memories.


recognizable objects

Recalling positive memories can help people with dementia to relax. By reminiscing they can become distracted from all the unknown and therefore frightening things around them. You take them back to the past, as it were: to times, places, people, events that evoke pleasant feelings. For a moment they are no longer confronted with their own inability, caused by the sharply declining quality of their memory.

Activate, stimulate or excite

Elderly people with dementia who stay in a residential care center or nursing home or attend day care sometimes drift off. Their own restlessness and fear and that of the other clients around them tires them. The dementia can cause apathy. The lack of activities, work, or obligations they used to have makes them stagnate.
By asking them questions and calling on what they remember from the past, they are activated. You invite them to answer the questions and, if the reminiscence takes place in a group, to respond to each other. You let them tell the story, you continue your questions and focus them. Sometimes they will even show up. Just ask a former farmer or farmer’s wife about milking the cows: their hands do it like this. Memories are also stored in a human body.


Collectively reminiscing about their past lives can (temporarily) strengthen their identity. It stimulates their memory. For a moment they remember who they are, what they did, and what they could do. The emptiness they experience in the present is filled in by who they have been. A mother who raised her children through all difficulties. The father who made sure there was bread on the table every day. Your life partner shares in your shared life again for a while.

Self confidence

And by awakening that former identity, a bit of self-confidence also returns. You were someone who could do something, who achieved something! You were independent and didn’t have to keep asking for help. You didn’t lose your way home, but you showed lost tourists the way to your city’s museum. Someone will confidently explain to you, the questioner, how she used to do laundry. In short: they know what you don’t know and that is a good thing!


By reminiscing with elderly people with dementia, you give them access to their own past. You hand them a key, as it were, with which they can open the door to the past and to themselves again. Brain damage that has affected memory cannot be reversed. But the painful consequences are lifted, if only for a moment, for that one moment.
The memory of the reminiscence, of the hour of reminiscing, can be forgotten within five minutes. But the pleasant feelings that were awakened may linger for a while. In short: a meaningful activity!

read more

  • Reminiscing/retrieving memories in dementia: methodology
  • Reminiscence in dementia: stimulate all senses
  • Dementia & communication: open, closed, leading questions
  • Stimulating memory in dementia by reading fairy tales
  • Elderly people with dementia: viewing family photos is stimulating
© 2023 ApaFungsi.Com