Strongest memories are of distant past; talks about childhood/early life more than present
When it happens
Middle of moderate-stage dementia
Why it happens
The ability to capture, retain, and retrieve recent memories (from a few moments to a few days ago) is mostly lost. But longer-term memories tend to remain strong the longest. Also, memories of children, work, childhood, and other past events tend to be happy ones, and thinking about them can make someone with dementia feel good.
Through much of moderate dementia, people are still engaged with the present, so they may talk about current activities as well as past ones. But they can't "capture" these current activities as memories that will be called up tomorrow.
What you can do
Indulge and encourage reminiscing; it's good for the person to talk, and sharing old memories usually makes one feel good.
Don't press the person to remember current events, and don't get angry when things are forgotten.
Try using a toy or other object as a prompt for conversations: a toy tractor for a farmer, a doll for a mother, old patterns for a seamstress, and so on.
Consider making a book or DVD that tells the person's life story in words and pictures; you can make it together and review it over and over.
If the person has always attended religious services, continuing to do so or providing recognizable music or readings can act as strong memory prompts.