Looking at the discussion of memories and past experiences using tangible prompts such as photographs or music to evoke memories and stimulate conversation.
Reminiscence Therapy (RT) involves the discussion of memories and past experiences with other people using tangible prompts such as photographs or music to evoke memories and stimulate conversation. RT may be offered to groups of people with dementia (in some cases with their family carers also involved) or on a one-to-one basis, often resulting in a life story book.
This updated Cochrane Review of reminiscence therapy for dementia was first published in 1998, and last updated in 2005.
We wanted to find out what effect reminiscence therapy has on people with dementia. In particular, we were interested in effects on quality of life, communication, cognition (the general ability to think and remember), mood, daily activities and relationships. We were also interested in any effects on carers.
In the absence of disease modifying pharmacological treatments for the dementias, psychosocial approaches offer the potential for people with dementia to experience the best possible quality of life. Reminiscence approaches have been used with people with dementia for many years – probably the most popular psychosocial approach in fact. Yet, only in this up-dated review are we seeing sufficient research of reasonable quality to enable evidence-based recommendations about its use and effects.
Not all ‘Reminiscence therapy’ is the same in its effects on people with dementia and carers. We were encouraged to find that the amount and quality of research on RT for dementia has increased considerably since the last version of this review. We concluded that the effects of RT vary, depending on the way it is given and whether it takes place in care homes or the community. However, there is some evidence that RT can improve quality of life, cognition, communication and possibly mood in people with dementia in some circumstances, although all the benefits were small. More research is needed to understand these differences and to find out who is likely to benefit most from what type of RT. Positive benefits were most often seen in care home studies. It is possible reminiscence is especially helpful in maintaining personal identity, which becomes more vulnerable with a move to care home, without the familiar prompts and triggers for personal identity embedded in the person’s own home. Research on digital life story books and reminiscence apps is in its infancy, but is likely to have a major impact on the field in years to come.