Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred past unfolds.
J.B.F. Wright 1925
This time of year inspires its own unique reverie, brought on by a subtle but unmistakable change in the light heralding summer’s end. There’s a mix of melancholy and anticipation which creeps into the psyche, as the child in each of us stirs. I personally believe The School Calendar is irretrievably encoded at some deep molecular level in our DNA, and that the collective unconscious is home to that mysterious urge to buy a new outfit, or big red pencils in a pretty box each August.
With the first early morning sighting of a blinking yellow light chiding us to pay attention, we realize where that little ache was coming from: it’s back to school time! And with a sigh, a chuckle or perhaps a shudder we recall some of our own “first days.”
The memories that most readily come to mind tend to be The Best and The Worst. Happily, in the sweet light of retrospection, the Best get better, and so the do the Worst! We have become more tolerant, more compassionate, and more appreciative with the passage of time. Those “I do know now what I didn’t know then” insights enable us to reframe the unhappy into character building experiences, or simply to shrug and feel relief that those times are done, and that we survived and yes, even thrived.
Such reminiscing is not “living in the past.” Mostly, our memories provide a safe network of trails to past triumphs and traumas. Those reflections supply important opportunities to integrate experiences, celebrate strengths and successes, reconcile conflicts and ultimately to feel okay about things, past and present. Talking therapies have long focused on using insights from the past to better manage the present through reminiscing. In that forum, “letting go” of a troubling, or otherwise dysfunctional past may be the ultimate goal. Equally as important as working through life’s bad stuff is celebrating the good.
For older adults, and especially those with dementia, reminiscing is a powerful tool for making connections with others, for supporting self esteem, and a sense of self- “ego integrity.” Sometimes it is the only tool. No matter that the time or the tale is fleeting. There is still great benefit to participants when stories are heard and valued.
Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch provide countless ways to reach out to cognitively impaired elders in a manner that honors them and supports their dignity and wholeness. Sharing photographs, music, special foods, and so many more activities help to access important past life experiences. I ran across a study recently that found that reminiscing about shared laughter increased relationship satisfaction! [Bazzini et al; 2007] This research fully supports my firm belief that we should all reminisce about more funny stuff! The study was actually focused on romantic couples, but I think the findings are entirely generalize-able.
Reminiscing is as easy as saying “Tell me about…” We like to tell our stories. We need to tell our stories. It is important for us to tell our stories. Our journeys to wholeness are found in our stories, including our many “first days.”
Someone with dementia may only give you a small piece of themselves — all there is, and enough, at that moment. That small piece is precious and may become a strand or thread woven into your life as well. The fragments may, like the creation of a mosaic, gradually be pieced together and something new is created. (Coaten, 2001, p 21)
Families may hear: “We are discharging your Mom tomorrow. You will have to pick her up by 10 a.m.” This is IMPROPER! Families are not required to pick up a patient that they cannot care for safely and effectively.
Welcome to our blog! We created this blog to share our collective experience in the field of elder care ~ in a relaxed, conversational environment. We’ll be offering helpful information about products, services and developments in the field of elder care as they happen … along with a little humor. We made career choices to help the elderly and those caring for them because its our passion. It’s an honor and pleasure to serve “our greatest generation.” We’re looking forward to having a conversation with you!
~ Monica Franklin, Susie Stiles & Friends