Jackie Takes Us Down Memory Lane

June 30, 2020

Jackie has been busy creating reminiscing books for our residents living with dementia, and the results are heartwarming.

Jackie June 2020

Jackie moved to our Mayflower Brighton home earlier this year and has become a much-loved part of our community.

Jackie is a kind spirited woman, with a rich diverse background and a caring heart. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt and has travelled the world with her late husband Gary, collecting many art pieces along the way.

With thanks to her travelling experience, Jackie is no stranger to visual art and wanted to use her skills to make a difference for those living with dementia.

Jackie approached our team, and they were more than excited to help her put a reminiscing book together.

“I was so happy to be able to give something back to our community,” says Jackie.

What is a reminiscing book?

Reminiscing books are a visual tool that can help people living with dementia to tap into early memories and life experiences. The results can be incredibly therapeutic.

Reminiscing sessions are held with dignity and sensitivity in mind, and it is important that the theme in the book is meaningful to person you are sharing it with.

Reminiscing books are usually in the form of a visual diary, photo album or display folder filled with photos, artwork, and short facts or headings.

The book can be centred around a person’s own lifetime, such as photos from their childhood, or the place they grew up.

Themed books are a broader, more commonly used type of reminiscing book and are often themed around a specific occupation, popular foods, or a time period - such as the 1940s.

These books help inspire conversation and ignite a person’s imagination as well as their memory of tastes, smells and texture along the way.

There are so many therapeutic benefits

Sharing memories by reminiscing about the past can be very therapeutic for people living with dementia, as well as for those reminiscing with them.

Reminiscing helps people to have deeper conversations, and to really connect over shared experiences and emotions - as well as learn new facts about each other along the way.

People living with dementia often experience more positive feelings and emotions during reminiscence, however talking about harder topics is OK, too.

The purposeful use of reminiscence often results in reducing levels of stress, boredom and agitation.

This helps our residents to feel more confident in their abilities and memory and gives them a great opportunity to really chat about what holds true meaning to them.

Jackie agrees wholeheartedly.

“It’s so true,” Jackie says, “I love seeing these books bring about personal connections.”

Let’s paint a picture.

Imagine finding your treasured teddy bear from your childhood, remembering the smell of your grandparent’s kitchen when biscuits were baking, or finding a photo of your now grown baby’s favourite ‘blankey.’

These are the kinds of warm emotions a person can experience while reminiscing, and so can you.

How do reminiscing books work?

Within our aged care homes at Mayflower, one of our trained lifestyle assistants gathers a very small group together or sits with a resident one-on-one to deliver a more tailored experience.

The lifestyle assistant shows the book to the person living with dementia and asks them what they think of the image and encourages them to share their thoughts and memories.

Some of these books have large text with interesting facts about the topic – and residents are encouraged to read them out loud to each other.

Memories are more than visual – and other senses are engaged by talking about scents, textures, emotions, weight of the object and flavours.

If you are sharing a reminiscing book with a loved one, some easy to understand and open-ended questions to ask include:

  • Where is this place? Have you been there?
  • Do you know what sort of bird/flower/food this is?
  • Do you remember these?

It is important to keep the questions short, and to ask one at a time, then pause and wait for a response.

Sometimes you may need to provide more information and include the name of the item.

For example, “do you remember these hills hoist clothes lines?” or “did you have one of these clothes lines in your back yard?”

How can I make a reminiscing book for my loved one?

These fabulous books are easy and simple to put together and can be made in a variety of ways. You may choose to download images from the internet to display with some easy to read facts, headings and questions in a display folder. Or you could use old books, photos, calendars, and magazines, to create a collection of images and words, as Jackie has done.

Some topics and photos you could cover in your own reminiscing book include:

Foods – preparation, the ingredients, recipe, taste, smell, texture, utensils

Places – smells, sights, sounds, favourite holiday destinations, famous cities

Animals – texture of fur/scales, smells, locations, types of animals

Fashion and clothing – era, style type, clothing type, texture of fabric, how it felt to wear it, how it was made

Tools – how they were used, weight of tools, specialist tools e.g. for a concreter or painter – what did they use? There is an opportunity to really customise the book here

Fishing – how, where, smells, sounds, taste, types of fishing gear, types of fish, best fishing secrets

Gardening – identify plants, smells, taste (veggies!), favourite plants, the best way to take care of plants, vegetable gardens, other types of gardens (formal, cottage style)

Kitchen/home appliances – what are they, sounds, how they were used, era

Famous historical events – memories, newspaper headlines, places, emotions

Other hobbies – such as crafts, knitting, and past occupations, farm or city life

You can customise your book by including specific locations the person has visited, for example, their childhood home or a favourite place they use to visit with a loved one.

Dementia Australia suggests taking it a step further and creating a ‘This Is Your Life’ book, with a visual representation of a person’s life.

Each photo should be labelled to avoid putting the person with dementia on the spot with questions such as “Who is that?”. It is also best to limit the information on each page to one topic, with no more than two or three items on each page.

Memory Lane Low Res