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Photos and Dementia: Sharing Memories with Mom or Dad

Next time you’re with relatives, take along an old photograph to share. Watch the reactions of your various family members. Chances are you’ll see some animated facial expressions along with laughter or maybe a few sarcastic comments. That’s because photos have an amazing power to connect us to memories and to each other. This is also true for those who struggle with dementia. While the connection may not be as swift or as strong, research has shown that photographs can trigger deep memories that verbal forms of communication are unable to tap.

If you have a parent or other loved one with dementia, there are ways you can share photographs with them to enhance the possibility of sparking a memory or two. Even if you don’t, sharing precious old photos can provide moments of joy and reflection.

Here are some photo sharing tips recommended by The Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Locate photos that are meaningful to mom or dad. They are more likely to be remembered.
  • Present your photos in chronological order if possible. It gives it an easier, more logical flow.
  • Point out the relationships between the people in the photos. Consider showing several photos with the same two or three people over time.
  • Share your own memories about the photograph. You might even answer, yourself, some of the questions you ask your loved one.
  • Keep the conversation tied to the photographs. Focus is important for those with dementia.
  • Ask open-ended questions, which are more likely to elicit a response.
  • Connect. Don’t correct. Remember, this is not a “test”.
  • Make it a regular activity. If your session is positive, put it on your regular schedule. It will give both of you something to look forward to.

As always when spending time with someone who has dementia, try to eliminate exterior distractions and noise. Speak slowly and calmly as you share each photograph. This will help make the process more enjoyable for both of you.

Sharing photographs is something most of us have been doing since we were children. Even if your loved one with dementia does not recall the photos, the act of sharing your own memories can help you connect with them in a positive way and keep your own treasured memories alive.