Before I begin with this post I wanted to give you a bit of background information on how this story came to be. Our Programs Outreach Coordinator, Theresa Johnston, gives presentations in the Greater Houston Area on all aspects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by speaking at local churches, community colleges and community centers. She has met a multitude of people throughout her journey and I will be sharing some of those stories along with the different presentations she gives. I hope you enjoy getting to learn about Theresa’s presentations and maybe you will be inspired to listen to her one day.
The Importance of Reminiscing always seems to be a crowd favorite of Theresa’s presentations. It shows people a different way to help make their loved ones, with dementia, feel included in a conversation. Reminiscing is the act of indulging in enjoyable recollection of past events. It is easier for people to reminisce because it channels into their long-term memory which normally is not as affected by dementia. It helps people have the feeling of a normal conversation because it is something they can easily recall and talk about. Over the years Theresa has given this presentation to a variety of audiences including nurses, social workers, caregivers, churches, volunteers and interested individuals. She starts the presentation by asking people to share special moments in their family history, anything from how much gas cost when they were growing up to holiday memories. Participants always bring up memories that many people forget about which makes the experience all the more engaging. Everyone laughs and enjoys each others’ memories which shows them how this happy time would also work well for the person they care for. There is also a short discussion on triggers to help bring a memory to light and ways to capture recollections such as memory boxes, journals, letters and photos. This presentation normally brings up a lot of fun and interesting stories from members of the audience. There was one particular audience member that struck Theresa with a story like no other.
Louise has been coming to Theresa’s presentations for many years. She is a former nurse and enjoys sharing the knowledge she gains to different places where she volunteers and with her AARP group. During one Importance of Reminiscing session, Louise recalled memories of her childhood in Puget Sound, Washington. Louise was about eleven years old during World War II and remembers her father recorded the sirens going off to warn the citizens that the Japanese were near the U.S. shoreline. She talked about how her family would pull the window shades down and turn off all of the lights in the house when the sirens rang. This was how they would “hide” from Japanese aircraft by blacking everything out they were to appear as if no one lived in the area. Louise also remembered how volunteers from the community had to keep a look out for enemy planes and if any were spotted they had to record where they were from. Another amazing memory and historical artifact from Louise is the recordings she has of speeches by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt.
As you can tell, reminiscing has the ability to bring up remarkable memories and even a little bit of history. It not only is good for the person with dementia, but also for their family members and friends. Everyone ends up hearing stories from the past that allows you to learn something new about your family or just allows you to relive a wonderful memory. The importance of reminiscing not only helps to engage someone’s long term memory, it helps to engage an entire family by sharing something as simple as a great story.