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Baseball is a Hit For Innovative Dementia Treatment

Sports reminiscence therapy encourages seniors with Alzheimer’s to socialize, talk baseball

In an effort to communicate with loved ones who have dementia, many family members bring out old photographs and mementos. These may be wedding pictures, baby clothes, favorite records, or familiar scents that are reminders of happy events. For many seniors, men in particular, baseball cards and sports memories have a lasting impression – even as other memories fade.

The 1948 Indians World Series, Willie Mays making “The Catch”, Babe Ruth’s rookie card, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak – these and countless other memorable events that your loved one lived through can be great conversation starters, prompting even the most non-verbal senior to share passionate memories. This type of interactive dementia treatment is known broadly as Reminiscence Therapy.

In a residential memory care setting, such as ComfortCare Homes in Wichita, KS, reminiscence therapy falls under the umbrella of socialization programs, which is when seniors with dementia gather in a group setting and participate in activities with fellow Residents. Other common socialization programs include music and dance therapy, art projects, and light exercise. [Source]

Sports and Reminiscence Therapy

Reminiscence therapy is a type of dementia treatment developed to help manage the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia through socialization. The goal of this type of therapeutic activity is to stimulate people with dementia to talk about pleasant memories from past experiences. While the topics can range, sports reminiscence therapy has started to gain traction as a type of socialization program that could work well, particularly for men with dementia.

The idea of sports reminiscence therapy officially began in 2009 when Scottish soccer historian Michael White launched a program in Scotland called Football Memories. White’s program brought together persons with dementia to chat about soccer, their favorite teams, and best memories in a relaxed social setting. Today, there are hundreds of volunteers and participants who meet to talk about rugby, cricket, and other Scottish past times.

The success of Michael White’s program and unique approach to dementia treatment sparked a similar program in the United States: baseball reminiscence therapy. The first program launched in St. Louis, MO, by a partnership between the St. Louis Cardinals (MLB), the Alzheimer’s Association, the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Office, and St. Louis University. By joining forces, this program brought together veterans in the early stages of dementia and their caregivers to talk baseball. [Source]

There are now 6 baseball reminiscence therapy programs across the U.S. The activities range from singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” watching videos, looking at classic baseball cards, and talking about the past. In some programs, like the River House Adult Day Care Center in Cos Cob, CT, seniors have the opportunity to play wiffleball.

Michael Ego, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, had this to say about the baseball reminiscence program:

“Simply hearing others talk about a sport they love clearly triggers enjoyable memories; by tapping into a shared passion, the participants become more engaged, and it seems to improve their self-esteem. My study is still ongoing – I’m still in the process of gathering data and qualitative assessments from the caregivers. But the laughter and smiles I witnessed during the wiffleball game tell me that something’s working.” [Source]

Making Reminiscence Therapy Work for Your Loved One

Based on research collected from the St. Louis, MO, baseball reminiscence therapy program, sports reminiscence therapy is shown to improve self-esteem, enhance mood, and promote communication skills in persons with Alzheimer’s disease. This type of socialization program encourages participants to share memories, which has shown positive effects on cognition. [Source]

For you loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, there are 3 key takeaways from this approach to dementia care:

  1. Utilize different forms of communication
    Your loved one may not be able to discuss today’s current events or make decisions about how they want to spend their time. As their disease progresses, the damage to their brain can make even simple tasks impossible. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your loved one. Approach communication from a new perspective by utilizing reminiscence therapy as a form of dementia treatment. If your loved one enjoyed sports, try watching old game highlights, looking at photos, or listening to music from that time period. Helping your loved one find comfort and joy through memories can be made possible.
  2. Find socialization programs in Wichita, KS
    It may be difficult for family members to connect with senior loved ones with dementia. Simply interacting with other seniors who have dementia or share similar interests can trigger positive memories. Additionally, socialization programs can be beneficial for adults in the early stages of dementia who feel ashamed or frustrated by their disease. Having a comfortable, trustworthy environment to talk about these feelings can help seniors and their families cope with a dementia diagnosis.
  3. Explore Ongoing Care Options
    Whether it is talking baseball, listening to music, working on art projects, or expressing feelings through dance, there are a wide variety of personal dementia treatment options for seniors. You want your loved one to receive the personalized attention and assistance they need to live a fulfilling, healthy life with Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no cure for dementia, there are ways to help your loved one feel acceptance, joy, happiness, and comfort while receiving Alzheimer’s care. Consider the residential dementia care provided by ComfortCare Homes in Wichita, KS, which allows seniors to receive professional memory care in a home setting, not a home-like facility.

For more information about memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes, please call our office at (316) 444-0532.

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