Often handling the most every day and domestic of objects can be most effective at sparking memories, starting conversation and finding out more about your residents’ lives and personalities.
The most effective objects are things that do something or require an action – an egg whisk or a wind-up toy, a tin box with a lid, a bar of soap.
Or things like buttons that can be sorted and examined, or toys like marbles or a spinning top.
They can also be a starting point for creative sessions of all kinds once you find out what your residents respond to.
Reminiscence sessions often lead to finding out more about your residents and what they might enjoy doing and can bring with them ideas for further creative sessions.
Some examples –
Residents handling silver spoons started reminiscing about polishing the silver every week as children – so we had a session polishing silver spoons together which made the group very relaxed and chatty.
We noted down some of their memories in the polishing session.
Then followed this up by drawing around spoons and drawing spoons then adding their collected memories to create an artwork.
A session handling and smelling herbs from the garden made me realise how much some of the residents knew about herbs medicinal properties – a next step could be to make a record of their knowledge by making a note book with pressed herbs, drawings, paintings and writing which could be an ongoing activity.
An old fashioned cotton reel might remind someone that they used to make a French knitting doll, or “knitting Nancy”, out of a cotton reel by hammering 4 tacks into the top – this could lead to you bringing in a knitting doll and some balls of wool and asking if anyone can teach you how to use it. And getting everyone involved by helping to hold or sort the wool, doing some knitting together or unpicking some bad stitches and all the conversation and engagement that comes with a creative session.
Ways to adapt for less able residents:
Reminiscence sessions are about communication and sharing objects can be a way to communicate without the need to speak, sharing in the smell of something, showing you what’s inside, remembering a tune to hum together and feeling part of a group, taking part in a shared experience.
Ways to adapt from group to individual and vice versa:
Passing someone an interesting object to handle can be a great distraction if they’re anxious and having a selection of objects that you can use and share to communicate with someone living with dementia can be very reassuring.