Memory Books as a Therapeutic Tool for People with Dementia
04 March 2021
Caring for someone living with dementia is incredibly hard, whether they are a parent, partner, relative, or a friend. It can often be lonely, for both yourself and the person you are caring for. In our blog today we want to highlight how useful a Dementia Memory Book can be as a therapeutic tool for memory loss, and a rewarding activity to combat loneliness. Not just for your loved one, but also for you.
What is a Dementia Memory Book?
A memory book is a collection of photographs and images, with accompanying descriptions, most often used to capture moments in time (holidays, for example) or peoples life stories. A Dementia Book is designed to be filled with the life memories of a person suffering from dementia, with the aim of helping them (or their loved ones) to remember, re-live, and feel comforted by their fond memories. Commonly included are photos of the individual from across the years, important life events such as weddings and birthday parties, and of more everyday things like their work, family, friends and holidays.
Our Dementia Memory Book was expertly crafted by our designer, Adam Welton, to help those with memory loss. He investigated whether design could help those suffering from dementia, and his research helped shape the style, colours, layout and typography of the books to make sure they were as useful, and easy to comprehend, as possible.
How do Dementia Memory Books help?
A Dementia Memory book can be effective in multiple ways, in different situations, for those in any of the dementia stages. Most importantly, the book helps connect – it connects the person suffering from dementia to their memories, and connects the caregiver to the person they are there to help. It also serves as a connection to time, both the past and the present.
The memory book will start to help before it’s even a book! Collecting the photographs, stories and memories is the first step to creating a memory book, and that activity in itself will stimulate the mind of a person with dementia. Doing this is often very therapeutic for the carer as well – seeing a loved one suffer through the emotional pain of memory loss is heart-aching, but talking to them and sharing memories is a precious and rewarding activity.
Once created, you can use a Dementia Memory Book in a number of ways and different situations, for example: •As a security tool, or “comfort blanket” when they are being taken to unfamiliar places like a hospital •As a way to keep their mind active and to keep memories alive for longer •As a way to help distract or refocus during difficult symptoms •As a tool to combat loneliness they may be feeling, especially times when you aren’t available •To aid their wellbeing, sense of self and self esteem •As a connection to the past and present •As a bonding and connecting exercise between you and them, and any other friends and family they may see.
A Dementia Book is, of course, individual and personal to each and every person. How you choose to use it is up to you, and you may find that some situations are more or less suitable to your loved one’s particular needs.
What Dementia Stage is a Dementia Memory Book for?
Whatever stage of dementia your loved one is in, a Dementia Memory Book can help – but it is important to tailor the book to suit their needs. Depending on whether they are in an early or late stage dementia will help guide you on including the right amount of information and number of photographs, although as a rule generally less is more.
For those in early stage dementia you can include more detailed information in the captions on each page, and include significant memories and stories. At early dementia stages, people suffering from dementia will still be able to read, although may experience difficulty in remembering what you read. However, as the dementia progresses, in middle and late stage dementia this ability will decline gradually over time, so because of this you’ll want to leave out captions and include just a few sentences that are simply structured.
While early stage dementia books will be more about your loved one’s memories and life story, a Dementia Book for someone in the late dementia stages could include helpful information, that is more about their current day-to-day lives, for example what they like to eat and their daily routine. Text should also be larger in these books, and pages shouldn’t be overcrowded – just one photo per page will help your loved one be able to concentrate on the information more easily.
How to start a Dementia Memory Book?
The first step in creating a memory book is collecting the memories. This includes finding photographs and talking to your loved one about their past to learn about the facts and stories of their life. Don’t rush this – take the time to enjoy their company and memories, even if all the details don’t end up in the book (captions should be short) they will still be a fond memory for you to think about.