One of the most magical experiences in life is the chance to reminisce with friends and family. Memories are the tie that binds us and define who we are. During the aging process, we can have difficulty recalling details about specific events. Unfortunately, for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, memory loss is much more substantial.
As part of our award-winning Sweet Memories program, our caregivers undergo in-depth training about programs and techniques which help to reestablish relationships between residents and their loved ones. One of those techniques are life kits. These kits contain meaningful items from each residents’ past and help to trigger positive emotions and are put together during the move-in process.
The son of a resident became discouraged because his father had forgotten who he was. With each visit, his father became more and more distant. The son and I explored his father’s life kit and found index cards with drink recipes, shot glasses, and pictures of him working his way through college as a bartender. Using these memories as a foundation, we created an activity bag for the son that included bottles filled with non-alcoholic mixtures. Each time the son visited his father would mix and serve him drinks.
After a few months of visits, the son came back to my office beaming and smiling. He said that the disease allowed him to get to know his dad in a different light. They had become friends because the son could embrace where his father was in the disease process. He entered his world instead of expecting the father to enter his world.
As caregivers, we must all approach Alzheimer’s and dementia as a mystery. The clues change quickly as we try to solve where our loved ones are today but having a complete perspective of all the aspects of our residents’ lives help build new bridges for communication.
My life kit included examples of my happy place. A picture of a child to represent my granddaughter, the sunglasses to remind me of our first trip to the zoo. I included sea shells because my favorite part of the beach is shelling. I put a couple of CDs of my favorite musical artist and included the lyrics to help the caregiver sing-a-long. I added poker chips for my midnight runs to the casino and the snow globe that reminded me of my wedding day. What would go in yours?