dementia memory box

Memory boxes for dementia: Easy steps to make your own

5 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 10.02.2023

Alistair Clay

Memory boxes for dementia are a really useful tool to help stimulate memories and activate the senses.

Dementia impairs the ability to recall old memories and make new ones.

Memory boxes can help create links to the past and in recent years have become an essential resource in dementia care.

This article will cover how a memory box for dementia can help your loved one and the easy steps to make your own.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Memory boxes are a place where you can collect objects from your loved one’s past to help them recall fond memories.
  • You can make memory boxes for dementia by including items that have sensory value or appeal. 
  • Creating a memory box for dementia is not only beneficial for your loved one but can bring the whole family together.
Memory boxes for dementia

What is a dementia memory box?

A memory box is a collection of personal objects and treasures that remind your loved one with dementia of their past.

And memory boxes for dementia care can be used to stimulate memories for your loved one living with cognitive decline. 

They are dementia-friendly resources to help rediscover some of those pre-diagnosis recollections.

tools for dementia

How can memory boxes benefit people with dementia?

Memory boxes for dementia, much like a dementia memory book, provide numerous ways to help your loved one engage with memories of their life before diagnosis. 

As their memories and cognitive ability are affected by the progressive nature of the disease, they may find it harder to engage with the past.

Creating a spark

Real-world stimuli hold powerful memory value and can spark something in the brain which aids recollection of a certain time. 

Many of these objects appeal to the five senses which, over time, are affected by dementia and its symptoms.

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Memory boxes, dementia and the five senses

Touch, taste and smell can be noticeably affected by dementia conditions and worsen as the disease progresses. 

Sight and hearing capabilities can also become impaired which causes daily confusion and anxieties for people living with dementia.

There’s more here on what is dementia.

People with dementia are very sensitive to sensory experiences and their environment needs to be managed carefully to make it understandable, comfortable, and (if possible) therapeutic.
Sophie Behrman, Leonidas Chouliaras, Klaus P. Ebmeier (Maturitas, 2014)
How can memory boxes benefit people with dementia?

Sensory changes

Memory boxes can help with sensory stimulation by providing a controlled environment in which to engage with new or once familiar sights, textures and sounds. 

Taste and smell could even be incorporated through some items and imagery which will encourage your loved one to engage.

Smells good

Another way to incorporate smell is through scent, using perfume or scented sprays that hold sentimental meaning.

This multi-sensory aspect is important to people living with dementia whose senses and perception may suffer as a result of the disease. 

The ability to touch, hear and see different things can help to reduce agitation and encourage relaxation.

What is a dementia memory box?

Why create a dementia memory box?

Memory boxes can help people with dementia foster connections with past memories, people and objects. It’s a great form of reminiscence therapy.

By choosing and handling objects in the memory box, your loved one is given access to a treasure trove of memories that they may have struggled to access otherwise.

Get the family involved

The process of making memory boxes for dementia is also an enjoyable and stimulating activity that can be done with family members of all ages.

This type of interaction between objects and people will give your loved one the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience of a different time. 

What to put in a memory box

What goes into the memory box is decided by you and your loved one with dementia. 

You could start by asking them about their happiest memories from childhood or a special day they have experienced.

If they struggle to remember anything initially, think about including things that will spark happy memories, such as photographs from their wedding day or a favourite piece of clothing. 

dementia and memory

Ideas for your memory box

  • Wedding, holiday or family photos
  • A cuddly toy, perhaps from their childhood or their childrens
  • A medal or trophy 
  • Perfume or lotion 
  • Letters or postcards from loved ones
  • An old pet collar 
  • Photos from their childhood 
  • An accessory such as a hairpin or hat
  • Something from their favourite hobby
  • Jewellery
Memory boxes, dementia and the five senses

Where to buy a dementia memory box

Memory boxes for dementia can come in all shapes, sizes and styles. 

It can be wooden, plastic, metal or cardboard and have any type of design, pattern or fastening system.

A personal design

In terms of design, memory boxes can be plain, patterned or even personalised. You could try to find something that reflects the recipients personal style or interests and add your own design touches. 

If you’re not sure where to start your search for a memory box try Personalised Memory Box, Wooden Chest Memory boxes, Memory box basket or Personalised memory boxes.


Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

When to use memory boxes for dementia

Memory boxes for dementia can be used by carers, family and friends as conversation starters about the past. 

By offering the stimuli of items in the box, they can ask questions and encourage conversation to get your loved one talking and engaged in a group setting. 

When enjoying the memory box with your loved one, keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t become overstimulated or overwhelmed by the conversation. 

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Alistair Clay Author

Author 10.02.2023

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.