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Do Photos Help Relatives With Dementia?

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By Mollee Shannon

For loved ones experiencing dementia, the power of photos cannot be underestimated when it comes to sparking a memory! There’s nothing like a photograph of themselves as a child, a family member, or a vacation to inspire patients experiencing dementia to recall past memories. Laurence Aëgerter, a French artist and photographer has successfully used a method called “Photographic Treatment” to help dementia patients remember and recall life events. The first patient she worked with was able to speak for five minutes straight after seeing a photo of a cat and her kitten, which stirred in the patient a deep memory! Aëgerter reports that the patient spoke as if there was no disease at all.

So how do photos help spark a person’s memory? 

Exercising the Brain

Reviewing photographs is one of the best ways to assist in recall, aiding memory and strengthening relationships. When a person experiencing dementia sees a photograph of themselves or a loved one, this can inspire conversations about the people depicted, background, and  context in which the photo took place. This helps patients remember people and recall relational information and important life events. It’s been proven time and again that images have the power to trigger recall far more effectively than words, and the more photos the better! While a person may not respond to a single photograph, an album of photos from a particular time period can incite a flood of happy memories! Before you know it, you’ll all be warmly reminiscing about the golden years! 

 

Photo Albums for Patients of Dementia 

A great way to help patients of dementia recall buried memories is to create and review photo albums. You probably remember the days when you could peel back the plastic and stick your photos to adhesive pages! It’s best to let the patient assist with creating the album, helping put the photos in chronological order, naming people and places in the photos, talking about the events, and establishing a sense of timeline. It’s fun to create books that show a specific family member as they age! This helps the brain process and recognize the same face as it grows and changes.  Additionally, you can help your loved one achieve clarity by making these albums simple. I know, who doesn’t love a good scrapbook? The paper and stickers are almost irresistible calling to us from the shelves of the craft store. However, excessive decor can distract from the task at hand, which is remembering. 


Cycle Your Albums 

The best way to help your loved one recall is by cycling the albums. Create an album for a specific event or time period. Begin a new album for a different phase of life. For example, create separate books for a wedding and a 50th wedding anniversary. Change which books you look at in each session to be sure you’re covering all of the photos in due course. Maybe it’s best to review albums once a week, or maybe they’re only up to looking at albums once every two weeks. Whatever works best for the emotional and psychological health of your loved one is a good strategy, and the opportunity to see your family history will make this a meaningful practice for the whole family!   


Sharing Memories 

Because reviewing photos can be a walk down memory lane for all involved, don’t hesitate to share your own memories. You never know when a small detail may be the key to unlocking a buried memory for your family member or friend! It’s important to engage in a conversation about the photos. While the visual memory is the strongest, talking about the images will only help the ability to recall events and people from the past! 


Digital Albums 

Perhaps you have some precious pictures of your family. We want to prevent our cherished memories from being lost or damaged, so digital albums are always a great idea! With a digital album, you can upload countless photos in organized folders to a cloud storage space, where your loved one can have ready access to the photos on a smartphone or tablet! These devices are light-weight and easy to use, and the best part is that the storage capacity is large, since photo files are small! In a digital album you can include videos with the voices of friends and family from over the years. Sound with images can increase the ability to recall even more. At Legacybox our mission is to preserve your happy memories for years to come, in a method that provides easy access to your family! Digital albums are a great way to go when helping your loved one remember and recall those happy people and precious memories. 

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