Living Well with Dementia - How Reminiscence Can Add Quality To Our Lives

Written by: Sue Goldsmith, RMN

There is a part of each and every one of us that spends time thinking about what we have done in the past. Whether we’re browsing through photographs or recalling events or significant situations, we can gain great pleasure from reliving different moments from our past.

Reminiscing with a person living with dementia can have a really positive impact on the way that they feel; it also helps us to remain focused on the person rather than the condition and reminds us of the life they have led and the truly amazing things they have achieved.

What is reminiscence?

Reminiscence is quite simply recalling personal memories from the past and is something that can be highly beneficial to the well-being of a person and their care-giver. Often it can help to temporarily cause a shift in people’s roles and place the person living with dementia in a position where they are the teacher and the care-giver is the one who is learning.

Setting time aside to reminisce with your loved one can help to reinforce your relationship and help the person living with dementia to reconnect with their feelings of personhood.

What are the benefits of reminiscence?

Reminiscence has a number of benefits. By sharing experiences, opinions and words of wisdom it allows the person to feel that they still have something of worth to contribute (which they clearly have) and it can help them to realise that people really do want to listen and are genuinely interested in them as a person. It can help to both protect and preserve their identity as a unique individual.

Reminiscence can also help with relieving feelings of anxiety. Helping the person to focus on times in their past that provoke happy memories can instantly lift the mood.

Reminiscence is useful in helping people to recall skills that they have used in the past. If those skills are prompted through longer-term memories, the person is often able to replicate some, if not all of the task.

There are also benefits to you as the care-giver or family member. Seeing and hearing your loved one recall happy times in their life can also remind you of the times that you shared together and help to lift your mood. Remembering those times can bring you closer as you relive a time that wasn’t affected by illness or disability.

How can I prompt reminiscence with my loved one?

Reminiscence can often happen spontaneously as what is happening in the present moment can often prompt memories of the past. In fact, it can be the simplest of tasks that can provoke a memory, either for the person living with dementia or their family member. For example, helping someone to get dressed in the morning can remind a daughter of their mum helping them with that same task and could prompt the daughter to open that conversation and memory with their mother. It’s important to savour the moment and to recall the memory as this can lead to other memories. Even if the person living with dementia isn’t able to respond verbally, there may be signs that they are enjoying the moment such as a relaxed posture and facial expressions.

Looking through old photos and memorabilia can be a pleasurable experience for everyone, and has the potential to bring people closer. Having a focus for the conversation can also help people get over the challenge of not always knowing what to talk about. Sometimes your loved one won’t always have the same memories as you, so you might want to avoid asking ‘Do you remember…..?’ and instead say ‘I remember when……’ This means that the person is less likely to feel under pressure to remember something that is no longer there.            

Other sensory elements may trigger memories and can be used to encourage reminiscence. Playing music that has sentimental memories can help to lift a person’s mood and remind them of other people in their lives. For example, playing a person’s wedding song can help them to relive that day and remember their new bride or groom. When looking after your husband or wife, this can help with reminding you of all the good times you have lived through together.

Different smells and scents can also transport people back to a different era. Smelling a particular perfume associated with a person can prompt memories and recollection of stories. They might even be tales you haven’t heard before and therefore gives you an opportunity to know even more about your loved one and their life.

Remember that not all types of reminiscence will provoke happy memories. It would be safe to say that throughout life, we will struggle with difficult times or difficult life events and therefore we will all have memories of times that weren’t our happiest. An older person will most probably have experienced loss of family members or times of hardship and these might prompt feelings of sadness or regret. Helping your loved one to work through these memories can help them to come to terms with what has happened in the past; it can also help you to better understand the person and the different triggers that might cause them to feel this way. 

However you choose to remember, reminiscence can add pleasure and quality to your life and that of your loved one, gently reminding you that your relationship is not defined by illness but by simply both being you.


Dementia Care at Bluebird Care Lewes District, Brighton & Hove


Bluebird Care Lewes District, Brighton & Hove can provide experienced staff to help you maintain your quality of life while remaining in your own home. We create a specialised dementia care plan with you. This might include:

  • Reminding or helping you to take your medicines to manage your symptoms
  • Support with bathing and/or dressing to keep you looking your best
  • Catheter care and continence management to maintain your dignity and comfort
  • Help to establish a regular exercise routine to improve mood and mobility and to strengthen muscles
  • Making sure you have plenty of fluids and a balanced diet with enough fresh fruit and vegetables and fibre to keep you healthy and avoid constipation
  • Assisting with routine household chores and shopping so your home life is as you would like it to be
  • Companionship, or helping you to be involved in social activities.

Our dementia home care and live-in care services provide the support and care you need to get you and your loved ones through the difficult days.

Get in touch with our friendly team to discuss your care requirements; call us on 01273 022055.

How to find the right care for you or your relative

1. Find your local office

Bluebird Care delivers care from locally based offices, find yours to start your care journey today.

2. Get in touch with us

Fill in our call back form or give us a call to find out how we can help you.

3. Assessment

We’ll come out to you to find out what you or your loved one needs to help stay independent at home.

4. Care team chosen & care starts

You'll be cared for by our specially trained team to support you to remain at home for as long as possible.

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