Engaging Conversations with those with Memory Loss

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By Adele Mehta, Director of Senior Outreach & Caregiver Services

Family gatherings around the holidays – or socializing with friends – can offer special challenges for those with memory loss and their caregivers.  As one family member lamented, “I want to talk with Uncle Bill, but I’m confused about what to say and concerned that I’ll embarrass him.”  One of the best ways to include everyone in the conversation is through reminiscence.  Sharing memories together of each person’s favorite trip or favorite foods can bring everyone into the conversation.

One resource available on loan from some public libraries, or for sale online, is Bi-Folkal, which encourages “creative reminiscence” and “the exchange of experiences in intergenerational groups.”  Bi-Folkal offers a variety of kits with tools to stimulate conversation, including CDs, DVDs, and discussion guides.  Each kit covers a different topic, such as “Remembering the 50s,”  “The Home Front” (WW II), and “Remembering Automobiles.”  Some of the topics invite intergenerational reminiscences and sharing, from children to elders:  “Remembering Pets,”  “Remembering Summertime,” and “Remembering Birthdays.”

Some public libraries are offering the kits on loan.  For example, kits can be checked out for six weeks from the Hennepin County Library by reserving online or by calling 612-543-5900, with Southdale Library as the location for picking up the kits.

The idea of using Bi-Folkal came from one of the Senior Outreach & Caregiver Services’ caregiver support groups.  Consider attending one (or more!) of the groups, meeting at five locations, to share your own successes and challenges.  Check our web page or call 612-770-7005 for more information.