We all know that old postcards, newspaper clippings and photographs are almost guaranteed to spark memories, often about things we thought we had forgotten. The ability of mementos to unlock old memories can be especially powerful for those who live with Alzheimer’s disease.
At our Anthem Memory Care communities, we enjoy learning as much as possible about the lives of our residents and work with family members to keep memories alive. We also encourage family members to organize their loved ones’ mementos and photographs in a manner that makes them quickly accessible. These “memory boxes” of treasures collected over the years typically include items that have developed special meaning to family and friends. If you are a family caregiver, you might consider creating a memory box for your loved one with dementia. They are not difficult to put together and the smiles they bring are well worth the effort.
The Mayo Clinic covered the topic of memory boxes and had a few good suggestions we thought we’d share:
- Document descriptions of important events in your loved one’s life. Short notes and recollections can later be read aloud to your loved one.
- Be sure to write captions on your photos and include the names of those in the photo, along with dates.
- Instead of a box, consider using a large jar to hold smaller photos and memorabilia. It’s easier to see the contents and can be placed conveniently on a shelf.
- Consider keeping an online folder with photos and mementos.
- Conduct a series of short video or audio interviews with your loved one, recording your conversations. You can play them back for them and for other family members and friends.
There are almost unlimited sources for items to include in your loved one’s memory box. Consider important papers, certificates, personal letters and greeting cards collected over the years. And you will want to add to your memory box as you uncover more treasures.
Remember, the key is to keep your memory box (or boxes) in a place where it is easily retrieved, so don’t keep it locked away or stored in a closet. Items that spark memories for a loved one with dementia deserve a place right in the center of activity. You will find yourself pulling their memory box out often and you and other family members will grow to appreciate its ability to connect you to your loved one, enjoying every precious memory that remains intact.