Reminisce helps memory in therapy with elderly geriatric patients

Reminisce Therapy Activity

Reminisce is an activity that involves remembering and retelling past memories and events from a person’s life, often added to using materials from a particular time.

Research supports psychosocial interventions and cognitive stimulation therapy such as reminisce as a way to improve communication skills, adjust to a dementia diagnosis, reduce stress and anxiety, improve memory and cognition, improve quality of life, and give support to partners/caregivers.

This activity download will target olfactory reminisce. You can read more about the research behind using this technique in the articles listed at the bottom of this post.

With just a few supplies that you likely already have around the house, you can target thought organization and expressive language, memory, attention and more. Simply prep containers prior to therapy. I used cotton balls for liquid substances. The containers that I used were from Dollar Tree. THESE disposable cups from Amazon would work well because you can hold them in your hand to keep the contents hidden. The ones from Dollar Tree were clear and not disposable, so I sprayed them with paint to hide the contents inside!

These are the containers from Dollar Tree that I decided would be easiest to spray with paint. It only took two coats. I already had the paint in my garage so it was literally a dollar to make ten of them!

When you download the printable document you will find a list of scents to include in your activity that range from cooking items (vanilla and cinnamon), cleaning items (Pine-Sol) and a few things that men would generally have an interest in (after shave and coffee). It’s hard to get men talking sometimes!

The download contains a list of materials needed to set up the activity, a list of scents, and visual sentence strips for facilitating expressive language at three different levels.

I recommend only choosing a few scents the first time and having a piece of paper or a dry erase board on hand to illustrate as the patients are talking. Drawing pictures creates a visual map to aid thought organization and memory while speaking. Ask open ended questions about statements that the patient makes, leading them to give more information.

Here are some articles that tell why olfactory memories occur and research about using reminisce as a therapy activity in persons with dementia:

ASHA Systematic Review


Reminiscence therapy showed better efficacy in the management of cognitive symptoms compared to usual care for individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

The role of odor evoked memory in psychological and physiological health


EBP Improving Quality of Life


For more activities that your adult patients will love, click here.

I’m curious to hear how your patients respond to this activity. I know I have had some powerful responses with my residents that I won’t forget. Please let me know in the comments how you used this or interesting effects from using it with your patients.

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