For most of us life is all about communication and conversations. Whether it is work or leisure, politics or just the weather (or making words rhyme ha ha). But for someone elderly or living with dementia day to day conversations can become difficult.
A person with memory issues may not be able to keep up to date with current topics or chitchat. They are more likely to enjoy reminiscing on past life experiences or on subjects they were previously experts on.
One way of connecting is by looking through old photos, picture books or magazines. It’s not important that events are remembered exactly as they happened, or even if old timelines merge into current ones. It’s having that spark of interest help bring a person out of themselves and make them feel good.
Of course conditions outside of your control may affect how an individual may react to stimulation like this, including their (and your) mood and energy level. It is possible to get very little reaction at the time only to have a memory stirred and then brought up several hours or days later. This is a good thing, it may just mean they need more time to digest information and form a response. Be ready to pick up on their response whenever it appears. Be careful not to correct or berate someone for getting details wrong, rather, if needed, redirect comments in a positive way.
Conversation starters are another good way of getting people to talk at their own pace. At Mindjig we have a couple of games specifically aimed to promote conversations. These are great for individuals or for groups.
'The Art of Conversation Cards' provides hundreds of ideas on topics to help get people interacting. For example “What’s the naughtiest thing you did as a child?”. These are a great idea for all ages and abilities as they promote free discussion with no right or wrong answers.
'Speedy Words' is another game that gives you simple topics to start discussion or just to give a person an opportunity to participate by providing a word they know on a particular topic. Unlike the title implies, there is no reason this game needs to be played in a hurry, it's perfectly suited to a slower and more thoughtful pace.
As with all activity ideas for people with memory issues, the aim is to have fun and create connections. Keep expectations open and aim to have a laugh or two.