Take a trip down memory lane

If your loved one is in an aged care home, how can you help keep their memories alive? These ideas and activities may help you to remember together. 

When a loved one goes into aged care, helping keep their memories alive can become increasingly important for both of you. In Bupa Aged Care homes residents are encouraged to treasure their memories through a variety of activities, including writing down their memoirs and building memory boxes.
“Most people like to reminisce when they get together with family and friends. It reinforces relationships, identity and connections, and helps people feel they have a lot in common,” says Heather McKibbin, Bupa Dementia Services Consultant.
Here are some of the ways residents are encouraged to  recall and preserve their memories

Putting together a Map of Life

“When a resident moves into a Bupa Aged Care home their biography, lifestyle preferences, wishes, dreams, personality and family information are captured on a document called a Map of Life. This information is then translated  onto life boards,” explains McKibbin.
“These colourful and personal boards help aged care team members to talk with residents about things that are or have been important to them. The board may contain photos of their wedding, children, pets, holidays, their house or work.”

Creating familiar rooms

Residents and their families are encouraged to set up their rooms as closely as possible to how they were at home, with familiar items, photos and mementos. Team members can then use these items to help residents tell their stories.

Setting up memory boxes

In many Bupa Aged Care homes teams also set up individual memory boxes based on the Maps of Life, focusing on residents’ memorable and significant events or interests. For example, this could be a baby memory box, containing items such as nappies, dummies, layettes, christening memorabilia, photos of babies, baby books and books of baby names.
“If a family member is visiting or the team see a resident needs one-to-one time, they can collect the box and sit with them and use the items to trigger reminiscing. The smell of baby powder or rubbing some baby lotion on their hands can also help make it a sensory experience.”
Elderly people at lunch

Remembering together

According to McKibbin teams usually help residents connect with other residents and make friendships by encouraging them to talk about their lives and reminisce together.   

Talking to school children

Residents in most Bupa Aged Care homes have regular visits from local schools, kindergarten and playgroups to talk about what it was like ‘in the old days’. 

“The children learn and our residents relish their role as a teacher,” says McKibbin. “Residents living with dementia can often explain these stories.”

Sharing activities

Familiar old tunes can enable reminiscing, as can many activities, like cooking, playing old-fashioned games or reading stories together.
McKibbin explains that actively encouraging residents to recall their memories is important and rewarding not just for them but for everyone involved:
  • For residents, it helps boost confidence and self-esteem, preserve identity and autobiographical memory, to increase engagement and confidence, and provides them with positive feedback and reinforcement while building relationships.
  •  For families, it reinforces relationships and family connections and helps them learn and retain their history and culture. Reliving happy times together can also help put the current situation in perspective.
  •  For the care team, it’s an important part of being able to see the uniqueness of each resident and it reinforces our ‘Person-First’ approach to care. It also gives teams ideas about how to occupy and engage residents and helps them to establish and maintain a personal relationship with them.
Most importantly, “It brings back positive feelings and reinforces their uniqueness and sense of identity. It helps the resident feel and be known,” says McKibbin.

Bupa Aged Care

Bupa Aged Care, offers a full range of care including respite, residential and specialised dementia care.

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