If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you may notice that they become agitated if they forget dates and details of important events, or names of people, places and things. This is common in dementia, but can be very distressing for both you and your loved one. One way of helping them to remember and reminisce about these details is to develop a memory book.
What is a memory book?
A memory book is a photographic and text-based record of an individualâ€™s life, a connection to the past and present and a book of treasured memories. In particular, it is useful as it details your loved oneâ€™s likes and dislikes, and contains details about their close family members and friends. It can be used to (a) remind your loved one who people are, (b) act as a scaffold to help them participate in conversation, and (c) provide comfort to them when agitated by reminding them of happy memories. Similarly, it can also be beneficial for professionals working with your loved one to get to know them and their life story. It is a helpful tool to promote positive mental health and quality of life as you celebrate your loved oneâ€™s life
How do you make a memory book?
If your loved one is able, ask them about events and achievements which they feel proud of in their life, or their favourite memories. It can be helpful to ask friends and family for their input around memories, and to ask them to share treasured stories and opinions for inclusion in the book.
Keep decoration to a minimum so as to avoid distracting and confusing your loved one. Keep pictures to one or two per page so that they can focus easily on the topics. Try include a combination of pictures, drawings and text to support your loved oneâ€™s understanding. Arrange the pages in chronological order so that your loved one can review the timeline of their life. Put a heading at the top of each page in bold, plain text on a yellow background if possible (as this font is easiest to read). For example:
Laminate the pages of the book, if possible, so that you can wipe them clean after use. These books can be made by hand, like scrapbooking, or digitally printed utilizing popular photo printing websites. If your loved one attends a Speech and Language Therapist, it can be useful to consult them when making memory book, for support in making it accessible. Try and keep the memory book alive by adding to it when new things happen.
Things you need to make a memory book
- Ring binder
- Poly pockets
- Coloured paper
- Photos, souvenirs, and tokens such as concert or plane tickets, letters or diplomas (it may be useful to use copies of photos, as original photographs may be precious to your loved one)
Possible topics for inclusion
- Childhood stories
- Teenage years
- Places Iâ€™ve lived
- Life events (e.g.: school, college, meeting significant other, marriage, kids etc.)
- Funny stories
- Groups they belong to (e.g.: clubs, social groups etc.)
- Current home (e.g.: hospital, nursing home etc.) and people around you
Below is a link to memory book templates which you can download to help you get started:
What is a memory box?
A memory box is a 3D version of a memory book, and may be useful if your loved one has diminished eyesight or a sensory impairment. Oftentimes family members collect items which are important to their loved one (e.g.: favourite bible, keys, wedding veil, bracelets etc.) in a box. These are then used to help your loved one reminisce about occasions in which these items were used/worn. This is also helpful to provide sensory input for your loved one (e.g.: rough versus soft materials/textures).
- Alzheimerâ€™s Arkansas. (n.d.). Making the most of memories: Creating memory books and activity kits. Retrieved from: http://alzark.org/caregiver_information/memory_book.pdf.
- Alzheimerâ€™s Society. (2015). Remembering together: Making a life history book. Retrieved from: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=1671.
- Country Living (2015). Memory boxes. Retrieved from: http://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/how-to/g432/memory-boxes-0704/.
- Elliot, G. (2012). All about me! Retrieved from: http://www.dementiability.com/pdf/free-downloads/all-about-me.pdf.
- Interior Health. (n.d.). A guide to creating a life story for care-giving. Retrieved from: http://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourCare/ChronicConditionDisease/Dementia/Documents/GuideLifeStoryTools.pdf.
- Interior Health. (n.d.). How to use personal information in care-giving tips for health care providers. Retrieved from:http://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourCare/ChronicConditionDisease/Dementia/Documents/UsingPersonalInformationCare.pdf.
- MindStart. (2012). MindStart this is my life memory book: Creating and using in dementia care. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oivcQ92umwU
- Schmid, J. (2011).Â Life stories for persons with Alzheimerâ€™s disease: Making a memory book. Retrieved from: http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/making-a-memory-book.html.
- Speech Musings. (2013). Memory and orientation books. Retrieved from: http://speechymusings.com/2013/09/24/memory-and-orientation-books/.
- Thompson, R. (2011). Guidance for using the life story book template. Retrieved from: https://www.dementiauk.org/assets/files/info_and_support/Guidance_for_using_the_Life_Story_Book_Template.pdf.
If you have any questions about any of the above, please donâ€™t hesitate to contact us.