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.