Springhouse Senior Living is sensitive to the struggle family members may have coming up with conversation starters for memory support with their loved ones. Visiting with loved ones should be a special time but many people struggle with “safe” topics to engage with for those with dementia. Now that visits are limited to resident apartments, we thought it may be helpful to give you some conversation starter ideas. Here are some ideas:
Ask About a Trip/Vacation
You may mention that you recently took a trip to New York City. Tell them a little about your trip. Then, ask if they have ever gone there. Ask them to name a few things they know about New York. Let the conversation take whatever path they lead it on. It may morph into totally different direction that you expected but that is ok. Just keep the conversation going.
Encourage Them to Talk About Their Favorite Things
If your dad loved woodworking, you may ask him to tell you about the first time he built a birdhouse. If your mom enjoyed baking, ask her what some of her favorite recipes were. Your grandpa may have bought his first car when he was 17. Ask him what it was, what he liked about it, etc. The topics are endless. You may talk about comic books, magazines, books, hobbies, sports, etc.
We suggest you bringing up the memories. Do not ask if they remember this or that. Just matter of fact, reminisce. For example, “I remember when we took a trip to the zoo, and we had the best time learning about the different animals. If you have an old photo album that is the best. Talking about happy times with family members and friends will calm their confused mind and make them happier. Ask questions about the people or places in the photos. Don’t press too hard. If they don’t know the person, try to find a name on the back of it.
Discuss Current Interests
Do they watch sports? If so, ask about their favorite team. How is the team doing this year? Bring up players that used to play for the team so they can lead the conversation on their own terms if the current players are not familiar. You may also choose to talk about things that are going on in other family member’s lives. For example, you can discuss how your sister grew the most delicious tomatoes in her garden this summer. And how she made tomato sauce for Sunday Spaghetti Supper.
How did your parents get engaged to be married?
Most adult children already know this but asking again, could bring happy memories back. Ask about how they go engaged….maybe you have a child or grandchild who recently got engaged and you can swap stories about how they were asked. Did Dad get down on one knee? Did he ask you father permission to marry you? Where was the wedding? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Bring in wedding photos to help the conversation along. Asking again will be a fun walk down memory lane for them.
Talk about how life has changed
Most elderly barely had television, never mind a phone or computer that we carried around with us. They find it amazing. What about water bottles? We are all carrying water bottles around. These “new” items and habits we have are not known to older adults. Talk to them about them and what items were new to them back when……black and white television became color? Car went from shift to automatic…Reference how much has changed how much technology has changed our lives. Show them how your cell phone works. Face time with a family member. Play their favorite music.
Enjoy a Road Trip
Go look at foliage, the ocean, a golf course, get an ice cream or something that was meaningful a long time ago. Taking a short drive can help break the silence. Point out important facts along the way. Remember to keep it light and happy. You might be amazed at how much they remember of the good ole days.
Sometimes people feel pressured to talk, but it’s also okay to sit quietly and hold their hand, listen to music together, give a hand massage, pray or read poetry aloud. Whatever you think that person might like or is meaningful to them.
And keep in mind when you smile the world smiles with you. When someone with dementia has a good time, they may not remember the “good time,” but the happy feeling can stay with them for a long time. So go ahead and make someone happy.