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Ten reasons why reminiscing is important

We all cherish our happy memories and enjoy talking about them with others, casting our mind back to times gone by and being nostalgic about happy experiences in our lifetime brings people together. For residents living in a care home reminiscing is proactively encouraged to support other activities and to help staff to get to know people better too.

Here are our top ten reasons why reminiscing is an important activity for everyone:

1. Improves quality of life: The Wellbeing Teams in our care homes provide a huge range of activities for residents to enjoy. Getting to know people means that these activities can be tailored to individual preferences and become more meaningful for people. Using props such as vintage cooking utensils, photographs, a wedding veil, or old books and newspapers can be great tools for triggering reminiscing.

2. Reminiscing is a great opportunity to form new friendships and connections with others in the home. Talking about past experiences helps staff to get to know people and provide more ‘person-centred’ or personalised care. Conversations between residents can trigger memories between peers.

3. Retains connections with seasonal events and important days: Cheryl Emmins Activity Coordinator at Eccleshare Court Care Home in Lincoln explains;

“We try and focus on national days as well as other celebrations or events and anniversaries. We recently celebrated National Chocolate Day (which promoted a lot of conversation about everyone’s favourite snack from their childhood). Earlier in the year we also celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE day which brought a lot of conversation about our residents’ parents and so many interesting stories came from this day and we learnt so much more about our residents. We had a tribute to Vera Lynn which had a huge impact as her music brought back a lot of memories for our residents. We have never seen our pub so packed!”

4. Preserves family history: Talking about family and shared experiences help people to validate their experiences and triggers other memories. Memory boxes and scrapbooks are a great way to capture memories and return to them time after time.

5. Reduces symptoms of depression: Getting involved with activities such as art, craft, baking or gardening can trigger reminiscing and the sharing of knowledge pass on tips and ideas to staff members. This can help people to feel valued and give a sense of purpose. Dawn Chapman Activity Coordinator at Swanholme Court Care Home in Lincoln explains;

Lots of our residents enjoy gardening but I’ve never done any so I didn’t have a clue where to start. But I didn’t need to worry, resident Barbara stepped in and became our ‘Head Gardener’, she taught me so much about what we should plant and how to go about doing it. We’ve got raised beds at the front of our home and they always look great, thanks to her”.

Feeling valued and useful can lift people’s mood and give them a sense of purpose.

6. Using Music and movement: The Wellbeing Team at Lakeview Lodge Care Home in Milton Keynes have been running Oomph! Exercise classes which tie in with reminiscence by using music from the 20’s through to the 70/80’s. Activity Coordinator Jade explains;

Using this music has made a huge difference in our classes, as our residents remember the lyrics word for word and can move to the music more fluidly than they may typically do in everyday life. Music and dementia go hand in hand and our residents are loving these classes as they have huge benefits.  As we all know it can help reduce anxiety and depression, help maintain speech and language, enhances quality of life and has a positive impact on carers too.”

7. One to one time: The opportunity for people to enjoy time with an individual member of staff has been especially important during the coronavirus pandemic when family and friends have not been able to visit. Some residents prefer to spend their time in their room, whilst others like to be sociable in the communal areas of the home. Whether you’re naturally sociable or more solitary, an opportunity for a chat over a cup of tea is always welcome. Reminiscing doesn’t need to be a formal activity, a conversation can be started simply with the Housekeeping team by asking about personal possessions or pictures that someone has in their room, resulting in a meaningful and enjoyable interaction.

8. Eliminates boredom: Many residents come to live in a care home having lived full and active lives. We don’t want this to change, as being less active due to frailty or poor health can be frustrating for some people, especially those who are used to their independence. A chance to reminisce can be a great sociable group activity, where other people’s stories may trigger memories and give an opportunity to discover shared experiences.

9. Improves communication skills: Reminiscing can help those who may have lost some communication skills and don’t usually speak much, giving them prompts and confidence to open up and converse. All of the senses can be used to stimulate memories, the smell of baking or the feel of fabrics can trigger long-forgotten memories.

10. Provides variety and stimulation: Making every day different for residents living in a care home is challenging. However, utilising care home facilities such as pubs, cinemas and hair salons together with reminiscing can provide a more meaningful experience than just watching a film for example. Discussing favourite films, film stars or memorable trips to the cinema can enhance the experience and coupled with a treat of popcorn or ice-cream makes it special event and much more fun too!

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