1. The past is one of the best ways to connect. Long-term memories are, in many cases, very much intact. When someone has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or related dementias, it is important to capture as many details of his or her life stories as possible, as quickly as possible. It may not seem like the details matter, but they do and they will. In fact, it will be critical to delivering the best possible service and care. Because retrogenesis is believed to occur, a person with dementia may be, essentially, traveling back in time and seeing himself or herself as 50 or 40 or 20 or 10 years old. If you can know more about his or her life at these different ages, it will make communication and understanding easier.

2. Stimulate the hippocampus area of the brain. Recalling, sharing, writing, and reading memories does stimulate the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex regions of the brain. A non-pharmacological treatment for Alzheimer's Disease would be spending time daily or weekly reminiscing and challenging the brain.
3. Preserve and celebrate a person's identity. Start early by asking the right questions that will be interesting and fun to answer but will also provide valuable personal background. Engage the family  to fill in the details and tell you more about the people who mattered in this person's life (including parents/grandparents), life experiences, and personal comforts (favorite foods, favorite perfume, favorite time of day, favorite places to visit, favorite books, favorite movies, favorite chair, etc.). Display pictures of this person at different stages of life from youth until today. This will give the person and the people around him or her something interesting to talk about and be something the person can identify with themselves.

Enjoy each other's company and each other's memories. Try something and don't give up on your attempts to be in conversation--eye-to-eye, face-to-face, hand-to-hand. Many of us have seen the movie, "The Notebook". If we do know the person's life story, we can always tell the story and he or she can listen. If you are working with someone with early-stage dementia, the journey of life may still be an open book -- ready to be shared. Don't wait. These life stories should not be lost or forgotten. They could be critical to caregivers in providing the very best service and care. The more we know, the more we love.


Reminiscence therapy tools
You may be looking for tools that could help in the writing of life stories for someone with dementia or memory loss. The Mayo Clinic is using the Life Story Journal with their early-stage Alzheimer's patients. Also, you may want to consider the MemoryBio Photo Album and Journal. Photos are a great way to bring back memories and MemoryBio contains 200 pictures with thought-provoking, simple questions. It's wonderful when you as the family caregiver or professional caregiver can have the honor to ask these questions and take the time to write down the amazing adventures of this person's life. You may find that it lowers depression, increases life satisfaction, and promotes happiness. You might also think about using Story Cards (interesting questions for all ages to reminisce) or a Storyboard (display a few key pictures and memories on the board). Some families have even created a book for a parent with Alzheimer's using LifeBio.com's autobiography template, and then they provided the book to professional caregivers. "If dad could answer this question, he would say...."