As we get older, we often find ourselves spending more time reminiscing about our earlier years; where we lived, what we did, and who we knew “back then”. This can be especially true for those individuals living with dementia. While they will lose much of their short-term memory, they often can recall events, people and places from their younger years.
At our Anthem Memory Care communities, we hear many stories about our residents’ past lives. And they are all fascinating. Lise Chose, a resident of Porter Place Memory Care, often shares her memories of life as a young girl in post-World War II Germany. She remembers the delicious foods and music of those days. After the war, when the Russians came in, her family left for the U.S., where she has lived ever since.
The staff at Porter Place loved to hear Lise’s stories and wanted to do something special to celebrate her 87th birthday. Working with Mike Ditschler, owner of Chef Klaus Bier Stube, a local German restaurant, they were able to recreate a German dining experience for Lise and her family members. The special dinner included wienerschnitzel, liver dumpling soup, red cabbage and apple strudel, polished off with a taste of authentic German beer. To make it even more special, they brought in a professional yodeler and an accordion musician to serenade the meal. The event was covered by the Chicago Tribune Daily Southtown.
Events like Lise’s German dinner are part of Porter Place’s “As You Wish” program, the purpose of which is to “recreate” memories of residents, through decorations, dinners, music and even special performers.
“As someone progresses through their disease, they lose current memories, but they can often remember the past,” Bobbi Kelley, Community Relations Director, told Southtown reporters. “So we try to connect them with the past, and help them connect with something that feels good,” she added.
Celebrating past memories is a great way to engage with those challenged by dementia. While short term memory may be lost, you can still converse about their former careers, hobbies and special events from their youth. By working to recreate the essence of these memories, we can bring joy, laughter and sometime tears of nostalgia to our residents. Family members and our staff members take great delight in creating these special moments.
Janet Burke, Lise’s daughter was thrilled with the dinner and the smile it brought to her mom’s face. “Oh, I’m crying, I’m crying,” she said. “She can’t believe it. She thought I did this and I said no, they did this for you!”