Clinical placements

Benefits of reminiscence therapy for dementia

When nursing student Charlotte Collins helped a patient with dementia recall his ballroom dancing days, she learned what a positive impact reminiscence therapy can have on such patients.
dementia

When nursing student Charlotte Collins helped a patient with dementia recall his ballroom dancing days, she learned what a positive impact reminiscence therapy can have on such patients

During my second placement in my first year of training, I was working in a community hospital where I helped to care for an older male patient, who I will call Ben.

Ben was 90 and had dementia. He had been admitted with a urinary tract infection and increased confusion and had a high risk of falls, but he was able to feed himself and hold a conversation, and enjoyed reading the newspaper delivered daily for patients on the ward.

Hospital staff including nurses, healthcare assistants and activity co-ordinators would carry out a range of daily activities with patients.

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When nursing student Charlotte Collins helped a patient with dementia recall his ballroom dancing days, she learned what a positive impact reminiscence therapy can have on such patients

dementia
Helping someone with dementia to recall positive past experiences
can help their mental well-being. Picture: iStock

During my second placement in my first year of training, I was working in a community hospital where I helped to care for an older male patient, who I will call Ben. 

Ben was 90 and had dementia. He had been admitted with a urinary tract infection and increased confusion and had a high risk of falls, but he was able to feed himself and hold a conversation, and enjoyed reading the newspaper delivered daily for patients on the ward. 

Hospital staff including nurses, healthcare assistants and activity co-ordinators would carry out a range of daily activities with patients. These included baking, decorating cakes and singing, and therapy dogs would also visit the ward. This seemed to have a positive impact on the patients, especially those who had owned a dog in the past. 

Dancing video

Many of the patients also required physiotherapy and occupational therapy services, including Ben, who was finding it increasingly difficult to remain mobile at home independently. 

To help build up strength in his legs and increase his confidence when walking, I would walk around the ward with Ben, stopping halfway for a cup of tea and a biscuit. His wife was also on the ward, so I would walk with him to see her. 

During our cup of tea and biscuits, Ben told me how he loved to dance, especially the quickstep, which he had done with his wife years ago. 

I decided to find some videos of ballroom dancing to show Ben, and found a computer and brought him over to it. When I showed him a video of a large ballroom where several couples were dancing the quickstep simultaneously, Ben’s eyes lit up and his smile widened as he reminisced about dancing with his wife at Blackpool Tower. 

Mental well-being

He said his wife would love to see the video, so I took the computer to her and she held Ben’s hand tightly as they watched the dancers together. They laughed as they reminisced. Thinking back to their dancing days seemed to evoke great memories for them. 

This experience taught me about the importance of reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. Although the progression of the disease means they may not be able to remember many of their life experiences, assisting the person with dementia to recall positive past experiences can help their mental well-being. 

It also showed me how vital occupational, physiotherapy and psychosocial therapy are to patients with dementia. Participating in stimulating social activities and carrying out personal exercise plans seemed to lift the patients’ moods and improve their quality of life.


Charlotte Collins is a second-year nursing student at Bournemouth University

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