Creating a dementia memory book is not only super easy to do but it is a great way to help your loved one recall treasured memories from their past.
Looking through old photos or reading newspaper reports helps prompt conversation and supports social interaction - something that can become tricky for people living with dementia.
In this article we'll discuss the benefits of a dementia memory book and guide you through the steps to create your own.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover in this article:
- Dementia memory books are unique to each individual and include memories and information about their life.
- They can be used to encourage conversation about the past as part of reminiscence therapy.
- The book can also be a helpful reference point for information about their current life.
- It’s easy and fun to make a dementia memory book with your loved one.
What is a dementia memory book?
A dementia memory book is a curated collection of photos, letters and other items that are attached to memories.
The collection could be arranged as an album, scrapbook or folder depending on what kind of items you want to display.
Some people even choose a digital format for their dementia memory book.
Each item should correspond to a certain time in a person’s life and will encourage memories when they see it.
This is a great form of reminiscence therapy.
What are the benefits of a dementia memory book?
Memory books have numerous benefits for people living with dementia and their families.
As memory loss is one of the early signs of dementia, personal memories may become overshadowed by brain fog.
But this is not to say that they are lost forever.
Looking at photos or meaningful items from their past, people with dementia can experience the joy of recalling positive memories.
This is a practice known as reminiscence therapy.
A dementia memory book can be used as the basis for reminiscence therapy sessions, or to complement other items.
This is because each item is a catalyst for sharing related personal stories and encouraging conversation.
This gives your loved one the opportunity to express themselves and talk about their own experiences.
These conversations can also:
- Increase self-confidence and self-worth
- Create positive emotions that reduce anxiety and depression
- Promote family or social interaction and how to cope with loneliness
- Increase communication skills
Dementia memory books can also help your loved one situate themselves in their current life.
Alongside memories from their past, the book can include details of family, home and current information.
This could include family, location and daily schedule to help with confusion over who’s who and where’s home.
Feeling more certain of where they are and who is around helps people living with dementia to feel confident at home.
A useful reminder tool
And if they ask repetitive questions about people and places the memory book can be used to help locate the answers.
For example, if they ask ‘Where am I?’ the answer being ‘Home’ they can use the memory book to find a picture and information about home.
With family or carers, who identify themselves as ‘Daughter’ or ‘Carer’, these words easily connect to information in the book.
How to make a dementia memory book 101
Here’s a quick guide to creating your own dementia memory book
- Work with your loved one to find personal items from their past, especially the reminiscence bump. These items should spark positive memories and encourage conversation.
- Choose how you want to display the items in your dementia memory book. Stationery items such as pocket folders, scrapbooks or photo albums would work well.
- Get organising, cutting and sticking, working together to create your dementia memory book. You may want to organise by decade, or theme such as family or music.
How to make a dementia memory book in detail
Let’s take a closer look at the steps you need to take to create a truly life-enhancing memory book.
Older adults are more likely to have stronger memories from their adolescence and early adulthood.
This period is called the reminiscence bump.
Music, events, people and memories from this time are more easily recalled in older age.
This is due to the condition of the brain when the memories are first processed.
Tap into the younger brain
At this age, the brain is healthy and more sensitive to new information and memories.
Collecting memories from this time follows guidance from reminiscence therapy, which emphasises the importance of the reminiscence bump.
As it will be easier for your loved one to recall memories from this time than their forties, for example.
Choose your display method
There are many simple and creative ways to make a dementia memory book.
You could choose from a traditional book, album or scrapbook.
Or opt for a folder or file approach to allow some interaction with items.
This is especially helpful for articles or double-sided letters which may work better in a folder with plastic pockets.
It allows the items to be handled and looked at closely without having to turn books to awkward angles.
Photos can otherwise be mounted on a card or stuck into an album and displayed with captions.
Involve your loved one with dementia in as much of the decision making as possible, so that they are included in the process at all times.
Creating and using the dementia memory book can also be a great family activity.
It gives the opportunity for younger generations to interact with grandparents while choosing the contents of the book.
Top tips for your memory book layout
- Use captions for each item
- Don’t overcrowd pages with information and images
- Use a mixture of media
- Make items interactive where possible
- Write or type captions and text using a simple font and large letters
- Include headings and page numbers
- Write information in bullet points
How to use a dementia memory book
The purpose of a dementia memory book is to collect memories that can be shared and enjoyed by your loved one.
Even if they are experiencing memory loss, they may still be able to connect with memories from their youth.
The best way to do this is to encourage conversation about items in the memory book.
Anything can spark a memory
Whether it’s photos of places and people, letters or newspaper clippings, each item will have the potential to spark a memory.
Just the sight of some items may be enough to get your loved one sharing a memory.
Others might need a little more encouragement, which is why it’s important to guide them through this sensory stimulation activity.
Join your loved one in a conversation about the items by asking open-ended questions.
These questions require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, and can stimulate memories and subsequent conversation.
For example, point at a picture and ask who the people are, or where it was taken.
These conversations can be had at any time throughout the day, over a cup of tea or during care tasks.
Set aside a special time
But for best results, you may want to implement some time for a reminiscence therapy session.
This is a time dedicated to using the dementia memory book to chat and encourage positive conversations.
Not only do these conversations help strengthen memories in the brain, they tackle elderly isolation and loneliness.
Top tips on talking with a loved one with dementia
- Don’t correct them if they are mistaking small details. Interrupting them with corrections can cause someone to stop talking for fear of making a mistake. It’s the fluency of the conversation that is important, not necessarily all the small details.
- Don’t get annoyed and say ‘Don’t you remember?’- When dealing with memory loss, elderly people are likely to forget details. Don’t expect them to remember, and certainly don’t get angry with them for forgetting.
- Don’t argue – No one likes to be argued with, especially not parents!
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