Sharing knowledge, life experience and the wisdom of older people is not just a valuable opportunity to improve quality of life for seniors but a chance for carers to gain a better understanding of the individual in their care.
Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley says the aged care organisation has experienced first-hand the enormous advantages for both carers and seniors in helping preserve and share the memories of seniors using reminiscence therapy.
“Benefits for carers can include improved communication, a genuine and vital understanding of clients’ experience and gaining an understanding of the perspective from which the client views the world and life,” she said.
“Preserving memories of seniors provides a meaningful experience for everyone involved. Reminiscing can provide a historical record – through tracing the stories behind the traditions and heirlooms, collecting and compiling photos, family recipes and family keepsakes to create a legacy for loved ones. The increase in positivity following reminiscence therapy can help carers improve their relationship with the senior in their care.”
Through reminiscence, remembering, reflections or review – recalling past events or experiences, is a psychologically healthy form of communication that is very important and a normal part of life. Simple or positive reminiscing is simply the recalling of past accomplishments and good feelings. It is this kind of remembering that happens either through direct questioning or in relaxed conversation.
Community care professionals seek to know and understand how they can create options for improved quality of life, meaningful engagement, opportunities for participation and contribution to reduce boredom and helplessness and significantly reduce isolation in the lives of the seniors in their care.
Ms Buckley says reminiscing and reflection can help us identify who we are and where we come from, our past experiences and events which shaped us, our families who have influenced our lives, the choices we have made as adults and the results of those decisions.
“Reminiscence is not just for seniors – we do it throughout our lifetime for different purposes,” she said.
“As young people we use reminiscence to define us, reduce boredom, identify problems and understand ourselves. In middle age we use reminiscing to: problem solve and seek solutions. Seniors need to reminisce to reflect on their lives, assess their lives and its value, maintain intimacy and connectedness, educate, share information and pass on their wisdom.”
Ms Buckley said that while reminiscence therapy can be a really fun and an enjoyable activity and can also offer a great deal of benefit to mental health and help seniors feel connected, talking and reflecting can also help make sense of loss and grief and is particularly helpful for dementia patients.
“We find Feros Care residents with dementia often lose their sense of self. Reminiscence – and preserving those memories – helps them connect with a time when those boundaries of self were intact,” she said.
“It also provides an opportunity for residents who have been placed in a shared living situation, even though they may have nothing in common, to find commonality in the past. This can also assist residents who still have full cognition to find a connection with those whose cognition is declining.”
Other benefits of reminiscence therapy include:
- Improved perception of life through pleasant memories – pleasant memories lift our mood.
- Improved interpersonal relationships allow meaningful communication with a person and our experiences with them are enhanced.
- Some of our clients might have very few social experiences or visitors, communication is vital to enhance social skills.
- Identification of common ground prevents feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
- Brains need exercise as much as our bodies and stimulating the memory keeps us alert.
- Reminiscence can assist us to understand how precious life experiences are – this is important in understanding ourselves.
- Recognition and celebration of familiar customs, culture and activities of daily life can assist to identify cultural occasions and their significance.
- Appreciation of self-knowledge and performance capabilities can be gained from reflecting on our past achievements – reminiscence therapy helps us to appreciate what we have achieved and this can also lead to an appreciation of our capabilities now.
- Preserving memories helps preserve integrity and instils optimism to foster a senior’s sense of self.
- Exploration of meanings placed on life experience and events and the value of these in the present day.
- Improvement of someone’s mood and provide an enjoyable social activity.
- Improving our understanding of our clients provides us with better and more frequent opportunities to improve quality of life, resilience, respect and dignity.
Ms Buckley said reminiscence therapy was a particularly helpful tool for Feros volunteers who work to create meaningful engagement to help reduce boredom and loneliness in the lives of the seniors in their care.
“Volunteering involves trust as well as care giving, and there is no better way to develop the trust of a senior than to be entrusted with special memories,” she said.
Feros Care’s dedicated team of volunteers provide companionship to clients and assist with shopping, visiting, crafts and hobbies, outings, home maintenance, fundraising, transport and gardening.
Volunteering is rewarding and benefits the community as well as the volunteer.
For more information about how to be a Feros Care volunteer telephone 1300 763 583.