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Therapy-Based Interventions: Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia Patients

February 1, 2022Neelem Sheikh

From childhood vacations and wedding proposals to favorite holiday traditions, people love to reflect on memories that they hold close to their hearts. For many seniors, particularly those who are struggling with memory loss caused by dementia, remembering cherished memories can be difficult.

There are many treatments and therapies available to help with memory loss and improve the quality of life for dementia patients, including reminiscence therapy. While not widely used in clinical practice, it is commonly used at senior care facilities and can even be done at home.

If one of your loved ones is recommended reminiscence therapy and you’d like to understand more about it, we have detailed below some basic information on what it is, how it works, examples of studies of reminiscence therapy for dementia, and common reminiscence therapy activities you can do with a loved one.

What is Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy for dementia is an approach used to help patients with memory recall. It is commonly used in parallel with other treatment methods, such as occupational therapy and art and music therapy.

Reminiscence therapy integrates the use of the five senses—sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound—to help dementia patients recall specific positive memories. The overarching school of thought for this approach lies in the idea that if a patient engages in activities that evoke memories, it may wake up certain neural connections and reactivate dead parts—like jumper cables for the brain.

While more research is needed to understand if this can improve memory and overall brain function, it has been shown to have several positive effects in studies of reminiscence therapy for dementia. It may help improve quality of life, confidence, mood, and behavior, lower stress levels, and promote heart health.

How Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia Works

Reminiscence therapy for dementia aims to target something called the “reminiscence bump”—a term psychologists use to describe the period most easily recalled by middle-aged adults and seniors. It is believed that memories from this timeframe (about 15-30 years old) become more accessible as we age. 

Reminiscence therapy activities can include simple activities like having a conversation or looking at old pictures as well as more involved activities like a virtual reality simulation of a cherished memory.

Studies of Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia: Clinical Trials

Over the years, there have been several studies and clinical trials evaluating reminiscence therapy. A few examples of studies of reminiscence therapy for dementia in clinical trials include the following: 

Reminiscence Therapy Activities for You and Your Loved One

While reminiscence therapy is often done in senior care facilities, your loved ones can also enjoy reminiscence therapy activities at home. Here are a few examples of activities you can do at home:




  • Look at an old photo album together.
  • Create a memory box of things like old pictures, keepsakes, and magazines to look at together.
  • Take them to a familiar location they frequented when they were younger, such as a park.
  • Touch

  • Engage in familiar tactile activities they enjoy, such as painting, pottery, knitting, or other crafts.
  • Taste and Smell

  • Eat one of their favorite foods or meals together.
  • Create scent cards or jars to remind them of their favorite foods or places.
  • Sound

  • Play their favorite music.
  • Make music together using simple instruments like bells, shakers, tambourines, or a do-it-yourself drum.
  • Assessing the Impact of Reminiscence Therapy

    When doing reminiscence activities with dementia patients, it is important to understand that you may not see noticeable results immediately. Try to keep it light and fun while allowing them to go at their own pace. The goal of reminiscence activities should be aimed at helping dementia patients feel valued, content, and peaceful by recalling happy memories from their past.

    If one of your loved ones is doing reminiscence therapy or a combination of therapies in their senior care facility, their caregivers will likely want to understand how therapy is impacting their brain health.

    Altoida’s mission is to accelerate and improve drug development, neurological disease research, and patient care. To learn more about our precision-neurology platform and app-based medical device, contact us!

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