Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.


Even before mom and dad started showing symptoms of dementia, I had made photo books for myself and my family.  Some of my early books were made from vacation photos on www.kodakgallery.com or www.shutterfly.com.  My children had also made books using those same websites depicting a year in their lives or stories their children had written.

Then as my parents approached their 70th wedding anniversary, I decided to create a memory book to give them to mark the occasion.  I scanned dozens of pictures from each decade and put together the story of their lives.  Mom and dad loved this book.  I also gave copies to my children and grandchildren as this was the beginning of the family history I hoped some day to write (but still haven’t).

Then in the last 2 years of mom’s life, about the same times as I was making the anniversary book, mom began asking me for pictures of my children and grandchildren every time we had a phone conversation.  She had a lot of pictures, but was confused about who the people were in the photos.  She wanted me to write it out on the backs of each picture.

I decided to make a book about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren for Christmas for mom and dad.  I grouped the pages by family, so each grandchild was followed by pictures of his or her children.  Mom and dad had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so I filled the book with one child per page.  Mom loved this book.  Dad looked through it but mom kept it by her as she spoke to me on the telephone.

In addition to this book, I made one about myself for my children and grandchildren, and I also gave a copy to mom and dad.  This book had pictures and stories about my life through high school.  Mom loved this book and spent a lot of time looking through it.  She remembered the pictures and stories and I think it helped remind her of things she had been forgetting.

The following year as dad’s Alzheimer’s and mom’s dementia continued to get worse, I decided to make more memory books for them.  Because mom seemed to be more confused than dad, I started with a book about her family – her parents, her siblings, her children and grandchildren.  By this point, mom was the only surviving child of her generation.  I was going to give her this book for Christmas, but gave it to her when she was in the hospital after she broke her hip.  I wish she had been able to enjoy it longer as she passed away before Christmas.

After mom passed away I made a book about mom to give dad for Christmas.  It had a full-sized picture of mom from the previous summer on the cover, and pictures from throughout her life inside.  I gave copies of this book to my children and grandchildren as well.  In addition, I made him a calendar with different pictures of mom for each month.  I made a second copy of this calendar for myself.

When I was visiting dad, I noticed that dad went through the book and calendar every day as he came to terms with her death.  He would ask me which child she was holding in several of the pictures.  He asked the same questions almost every day.  In some of the pictures she was holding my brother, my sister or me.  In others he was holding one of my children.  Mom and dad had visited us often over the years so I had many pictures of them with my children.

These photo memory books are easy to make and bring back many memories for parents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  The rest of the family enjoys them also as I do too.  In fact, I plan to continue making memory books even after my father is gone.  I use them to help me organize my pictures and my memories and as a framework to write the history of my family.  I also ask other family members for photographs or scans of their photos so I can include the extended family as well.

I highly recommend making memory books either online with digital photographs or in a scrapbook format.  Either way, they help people with memory problems.  And they are a useful tool to bring children and their grandparents together to share cherished memories.

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Caregiving, Dementia, Eldercare, Family and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

  1. That’s a great idea. I put together a photo album of our last family trip to the beach so mom would not forget it. I think I’ll make memory books also like you suggest. She’ll love it. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your comment and for visiting my blog. I love the way these books are so professional looking. And if you want another, it is easy to get multiple copies. Frequently they have special prices too so it is good to keep checking on their web page and to sign up for their mailing list.

  3. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says:

    Before I brought my cousin up north to care for him, we hung out at his favorite tav for a week and I took lots of pics of his friends. He really enjoyed paging through that album.

  4. There are many ways to create a memory book but the resounding message has got to be the value they posses in helping people affected by memory loss and their families too. Books that include stories and anecdotes as well as photos will widen the pool of memories. They are a great way to engage people in conversations on familiar subjects and once a conversation begins, other memories may also be triggered.
    It is social connections that are so easily lost when a person is affected by memory loss and making memory books for them to enjoy can contribute in helping keep the brain active. This blog article discusses how this is so http://pages.forgetmenotbook.com/online-memory-book/memory-book-helps-those-affected-by-dementia
    Asking family members and close friends to contribute in the creation of memory books means that they too can add their own special memories of that person. After all everyone knows people in different ways.

  5. Thank you,Jon. you are right about the family stories. My books all contained stories about the times and the people in the pictures. Dad looks mostly at the pictures, but mom loved to read the stories. I also wanted the stories there to tell my grandchildren about my parents and grandparents. I will check out your web page as well.

  6. Pingback: Photographs – Helping Those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease While Preserving Memories for Future Generations | Let's Talk About Family

  7. I just came across this article and could not agree more! My mom had created many of her own books, but could no longer remember names, dates or anything about the occasion. This was the reason I created the MemoryBanc Monograph – it helps create a guided memoir with pictures and words so those memories are captured and can shared with my parents.

    Both my kids will use these to start capturing their life story. I just had my 30th reunion and didn’t realize all the huge events I had already forgotten. It’s never to early to start capturing and WRITING DOWN the names, date and occasion behind the photographs. When your memory is gone, just a picture alone isn’t as treasured to someone with dementia.

    • Yes, it is frustrating to look at old pictures and realize you don’t remember the location or even the name of the person I was with. I started journaling with scrapbooking and realized I had neglected to document many of my older pictures. I went back to most of them and recorded names and dates. I also got mom and dad to help me identify people in their old pictures. Even now, dad can sometimes remember the names of people in his old pictures even though his short term memory is gone. It is best to write it all down.

  8. Kathy says:

    Wow – 70 years together. That is incredible! The memory books are a fantastic idea. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. We have tons of pictures on our cell phones and Picasa. We should really get them together in some sort of book. So far my dad seems ok (symptoms of dementia hit his mom very early). Every year since my mom died I’ve made my dad a calendar with pictures of the family. This year I did just the kids. He loves the calendars and asks for one every Christmas. Thanks for sharing your ideas!!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathy. I was just looking through pictures today to scan for a book or calendar for dad for Christmas. He does like to look through the pictures and there is no more space on his walls for pictures. This month dad would have celebrated his 73 rd wedding anniversary. I didn’t say anything because dad still gets sad sometimes with the memories. But he would remember if he knew the date. I love the picture books myself and told my kids if they want ideas for me, I would love a picture book sith my grnadkids, or a calendar. 😉

  9. What wonderful idea! My father passed in January with Parkinson’s which is accompanied with dementia. That is what actually precipitated my writing. I was sole caregiver for the last six years. Now my mother is dealing with dementia along with a host of other ailments. Funny how things work that put people like us in touch with each other.

  10. Thanks for following my blog. We caregivers are a great resource for each other. I try hard to give my fellow caregiver a laugh and maybe some insight into the craziness that may come down the road. Photo ideas are grand.

  11. I just discovered your blog and came by for a visit. My Mother died in July 2002 of dementia. My daughter heped me make a youtube video “A Tribute To Mom” not long ago to post on my blog. I was caregiver for my brother with dementia for 2 years, now have had him in the nursing home for a year, and am his power-of-attorney. I looked at pictures with him constantly until he could not understand who anyone was anymore. He had people, places, events of these pictures disappear from his mind. He is currently in the hospital with pneumonia. Such a sad disease and so hard to watch those you love disappear before your eyes. You have a nice blog, glad I stopped by.

  12. boomer98053 says:

    Lori, this post about memory books was the most viewed post on my blog in 2015. I had re-posted it to my blog quite some time ago and I must say, hardly a day goes by when my stats don’t show that someone has viewed this post of yours. You’ve made quite an impression on my followers and those searching for this topic who aren’t one of my followers!!! Happy 2016 to you, Irene.

  13. Pingback: 5 Pinterest Ideas For Senior Care Businesses This Spring - cfconsultinginc

  14. Cindy says:

    It was nice to come across your blog and read your take on lifestory books in a very ‘human’ way.
    My grandma has recently been diagnosed with dementia and gets confused about the close family and who lives with who etc. For example, she is convinced my teenage brother (who lives with our parents) doesn’t live with them and is constantly concerned about how he is getting by, but conversely believes I (aged 28) am still at school and living with parents. So I was thinking about making her a quite simple family photo album showing each of us outside our homes, in our work uniforms / outside university for my brother, and then some group photos such as ‘mum, brother, myself’, ‘mum and grandma’ that sort of thing. But now I am reading more and more about lifestory books and I feel like I should dig deeper and include photos from the past and encompassing more relatives, but my fear in doing that is that it would be too complicated for her, or that it would make her upset; she was one of ten siblings and only two of them (her included) are still with us today – the last thing I want to do is draw attention to the loss of family, rather than simply remembering old times.
    Ah the brain is such a crazy thing, eh?
    All the best!

    • Thank you, Cindy. I would start with a simple book about your family so you can keep it to 20 pages, maybe a page or two about each family member and a page with the whole family together. Then, after you have that, you can consider other books. You might wait until you see how she uses the easy family book. I made many for my parents. One book had all my children and grandchildren as well as my siblings children and grandchildren. For the most part this left one page per child. Each page had a picture of the child and some text about them including their birth year and current age. I did this book specifically because mom expressed concern that she couldn’t remember the grandchildren’s names and which grandchildren were born to each of my children. This helped her keep the family in mind while she talked to me on the telephone. I made a different book about my parents, decade by decade, for their 70th anniversary. Again I try to keep them to 20 pages though I might add 2 pages to complete the story. After mom passed, I made a calendar with pictures of mom and a book with mostly mom’s pictures. Dad went through that book every day until he came to terms with mom’s death. I also brought these books to hospice when he was there and it helped the doctors get to know what dad’s life was like. The medical staff all said it helped them to see what times were like for dad when he was able to communicate.

      • Cindy says:

        Thank you so much for your kind reply.
        Yes, it does seem as if the more in-depth books are better started while the recipient is more able to comprehend the project at hand and contribute towards its creation. I hope that if nothing else, I can give her a few photos of the family looking happy and well so as to ease her worrying about everyone’s well being while she is in a care home.

      • Thanks for your comments, Cindy. I hope your project will bring happiness to you and your grandmother too. I am sure she will enjoy looking at the pictures.

  15. Laura Robb says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am working on a photo book for my Mother and this information gave me some additional things to think about.

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