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Why Does Reminiscence Therapy Work?

Reminiscence therapy has become a popular treatment to ward off the effects of social isolation and cognitive dysfunction in older adults. By helping individuals with declining cognition connect with old memories, reminiscence therapy can be an effective way to boost mood and reduce symptoms like anxiety and depression.

Four prescription drugs are FDA approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s and other aging-related mental conditions, but they have only shown modest and short-term benefits. Billions has been spent on the development of new Alzheimer’s drugs, but success has been limited. Conversely, reminiscence therapy has shown great promise in smaller trials and shed light on the benefits of cognitive stimulation and engagement. In fact, many randomized controlled trials have found merit in this approach, with both staff and participants giving high ratings to reminiscence interventions. As a result, the door has been opened for reminiscence therapy products and methodologies.

The brain and memory recall

While we all have memories and understandings of the past, we probably don’t think about it much. Often, memory simply operates seemingly on its own without our input. Reminiscence therapy seeks to make this a more conscious, deliberate process. By using memories from a person’s peak memory years (16-25), the brain is stimulated by the recall of these memories.

A lack of brain stimulation is correlated to social isolation. When isolated individuals experience a sedentary lifestyle and little interaction with others, they are unlikely to reverse symptoms associated with these conditions, from confusion and irritability to loneliness. Other symptoms common with these conditions include:

  • Lack of trust with others
  • Delusions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Wandering
  • Loss of inhibitions

Reminiscence therapy is a psychological approach that provides individuals with cognitive disorders a bridge to their past life and a greater sense of purpose. By reconnecting with old memories, these individuals can feel less stagnant and are more likely to seek out other people. Just like exercising strengthens muscles in physical therapy patients, for patients with cognitive disorders, activating past memories can have a positive impact on improving overall memory.

Coping with cognitive dysfunction

Studies have demonstrated that one of the primary benefits of reminiscence therapy is the support it provides coping with dementia, Alzheimer’s and related conditions. While reminiscence therapy can have positive effects on improving cognitive function, some of its most significant benefits are helping older people cope with new situations effectively. There are two main types of coping that develop through the use of reminiscence therapy:

  • Assimilative coping: This is when a person alters their life situation so it fits with their goals, despite limitations. For example, by revisiting memories about an old friend, a person might decide they want to see that friend one more time.
  • Accommodative coping: This is when a person alters their goals to recognize new constraints on their life. They might revise their values and priorities and shift their identity in the process. While an individual’s short-term memory might be lacking, they can enjoy triggering memories from deep in their past, to recall what their lives were like then.

Additionally, studies have demonstrated that refreshing old memories reduces boredom and often leads to productive conversations with caregivers, friends and family members. By reconnecting seniors with memories from their distant past, they can be reinvigorated. Over time, this can help foster a healthier lifestyle. Numerous studies have found that the positive effects on mood and life satisfaction are clear benefits of this low-cost intervention.

The personalized approach that reminiscence therapy takes is also beneficial as it can make the individual feel part of something bigger than themselves. The long-term result can be happier, less isolated individuals who are more likely to interact with their peers.

Delivery of reminiscence therapy

Reminiscence therapy, by definition, is tailored around each individual receiving it—using their memories and stimuli as the basis for administration. So, while this is a popularly used therapy especially among senior citizen communities, it’s not necessarily always practical or easy to deliver.

A major obstacle is the time that caregivers need to put into collecting materials and putting together a program for the patient. That’s why traditional reminiscence therapy has only been a sporadic effort due to constraints on staff’s time.

The goal of ReminX is to provide a convenient and scalable approach to traditional reminiscence therapy. By giving individuals suffering from cognitive decline control over when, where and how frequently they experience distant memories, they’re freed from the constraints of always needing another person to guide them. Additionally, no matter where the caregivers are, they can still provide the vital support that individuals need. All this is accomplished using a personalized approach for each individual person.

If your loved one is experiencing cognitive dysfunction and social isolation, the entire burden of combating these conditions shouldn’t fall on a single caregiver’s shoulders. That’s where ReminX’s approach to reminiscence therapy comes in. Our platform aims to support cognitive growth and limit social isolation without solely depending on a caregiver. The goal is to reduce anxiety and depression, while providing caregivers with greater flexibility. You can upload pictures, videos and music and let ReminX take care of the rest. Click here to learn more about ReminX.