When a loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s often assumed that he or she has no recollection of any past experiences. That is not always the case, however. Given the right set of circumstances, sometimes the things an individual used to enjoy doing can come bouncing back to the surface; and often with greater clarity than you might think.
Harriet remembered making her tortillas. That was just the beginning.
Such was the case at Chelsea Place, an Anthem Memory Care community in Aurora, Colorado. As Jenni Dill, Life Engagement Director, tells it, one of their residents, Harriet Histia, one day remarked how much she missed making her tortillas. A simple statement, but one which generated quite a bit of excitement from the staff. Upon checking in with Harriet’s daughter, they confirmed that, indeed, Harriet had been quite skilled at hand-made tortillas back in the day. Who knew?
“She makes these amazing tortillas from scratch that she made very morning before she came to us,” says Jenni. “So, instead of doing something generic to keep her active, we invited her daughter for a cooking demonstration.”
And from there on in, it was Harriet’s moment to shine. She got up and out of her wheelchair to measure and pour her dough, cranking out over 100 tortillas for all to enjoy. And it was more than just fun for Harriet. “From a therapy perspective, she stood much longer than she would in a regular session,” remarked Jenni Dill.
Alzheimer’s and dementia residents can benefit from re-visiting past skills and talents.
Identifying the past skills or hobbies of an individual with dementia is an important part of keeping them connected to themselves and to their families. This historical and personal “framing” is routine at Anthem Memory Care communities, as staff members continue to seek ways to reconnect residents with their personal history and with those who are part of it. And, when it happens, everyone benefits. That’s because this often results in unique hands-on experiences for all residents, usually led by the residents themselves.
If you have a loved one struggling with a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, you know how disheartening it is to witness their ongoing inability to remember things. Yet, as hard as it is, try to remain as positive and encouraging as possible. One never knows when a random word or an image might unlock an old memory from beneath the surface and bring a special moment back to life… for both of you.