Sunday, November 26, 2017

Reminiscence group session diaries: Part 1

The project I am currently involved in examines the impact of reminiscence (via group participation) on autobiographical memory and learning of new information (as well as other factors such as executive function and mood) in older adults. The first group is currently running at a single location-in 2018 we plan to have groups running in multiple sites.

Halloween 2017. The first session got off to a slow start, with a low attendance (perhaps given the day that was in it). Nonetheless, we had an interesting discussion provoked by an activity of drawing a map of one's route to primary school as a child. Most lived quite close to their school, but in a way this allowed for a more detailed discussion of the buildings passed on the way to school. It was interesting to note that one might think one had forgotten these things until they are recalled.

The first few weeks are more focused on personal autobiography, although we are also interested in people's memory of historical events. (I'll cover this more historical content in the next post on this topic next month!) Thinking of the functions of reminiscence, maintaining one's sense of identity and giving an illustrative lesson to others have been identified as two positive reasons for using reminiscence. These two functions seem to come together when people think of their kids; they seem to draw on their own experience as young adults as a means of advising their young adult children. But older adults in turn identify with their children, and perhaps often see them as an extension of themselves.

One of the biggest influences on the content of the sessions is "remembering yesterday, caring today", which was devised for work in patients with dementia, but is actually quite easily adaptable to healthy older adults as well. I'm also currently reading the book "Working more creatively with groups" by Jarleth Benson. He takes quite a psychoanalytic approach to groupwork (a lot of references transference and counter-transference). A lot of the anecdotal material in the book seems to be based on work with clients experiencing mental health problems (often anxiety or depression), but with this caveat in mind there's quite a bit of practical advice with broad applicability too. For example, a number of chapters dedicated to the different stages of the life of a group. With this 6-week group already nearing its end, I need to re-read to chapter on bringing a group to a close. This in particular is important, as we want to do follow-up visits with participants after the group has ended.

The participants so far in this first group do seem to be enjoying the process, and discussing memories in a group with people of a similar age. If you're interested in this project, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @RecallEire. The website should be live very soon-watch this space!

Related posts
Time out of mind
Days of future past

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