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Cherishing Memories: Memory Books for Alzheimer's Patients

I first learned about the positive benefits of using a memory book when I was in college pursuing my degree as an occupational therapist. I then used my skills to make and use memory books with both of my parents. They both had Alzheimer's diagnoses.

As a caregiver, it was important for me to preserve memories and to have a positive resource to use as their disease progressed.

Memory book

My parent's memory books were a place with photos, letters, and mementos representing different life milestones and interests. I made it slowly over time with them. Each of them had their own memory book. They played an active part in deciding what was represented in their books.

I really felt like this activity empowered them to preserve their history with a disease they had no control over. I started the books in the early stage of their diseases. However, this activity could be constructed in various stages of the disease.

Tips on making a memory book

There are many resources and templates to help guide you, or you can purchase a memory book and fill it in as you see fit. Honestly, I kept it cost-friendly and tailored it to each of my parents.

  1. Contain the memories: Use a binder with thick paged paper or a photo album that your loved one can hold.
  2. Keep it simple: I placed one enlarged photo, card, and letter, per page. I wrote one short sentence about the picture. I kept the pages from being visually overstimulating for them, keeping in mind their potential needs as the disease progressed.
  3. Contents: Don't stress about this. Try to fit every aspect of their life into this book - do what seems natural.
  4. Always have a duplicate copy of the book available.

Memory books are a great tool to stimulate conversation about a favorite vacation spot, hobbies, or most memorable life moment.

If your loved one cannot answer these questions, do your best to create the content of their books based on what you know about them. Always great to include pictures through the years of your loved one, a photo of them eating their favorite food or an object with their favorite color. There are no set rules for this. Just be creative and have fun.

6 ways my parents benefited from their memory book

As my parent's Alzheimer's disease progressed, their memory books helped in the following ways:

  • When they looked at the photos, their emotional connection helped them recall memories. This appeared to help them the most in their disease's early and middle stages.
  • Even in times when their communication abilities had decreased. I noticed a sense of pride and smiles when looking through their book. It was a way to communicate without words.
  • If they were in an unfamiliar place, this book helped bring them a sense of comfort and familiarity.
  • It, at times, before severe disease progression, was a great tool to help orient them to themselves and our family and loved ones. It also was a way to enter their world in a non-threatening manner. It led to verbal interaction that might not have happened without it.
  • Their memory books were a great way to redirect them when experiencing a deep emotional response or behavior.
  • Helped other healthcare workers and caregivers to have a way to interact with my loved ones. I felt like it helped outside caregivers to understand more about my parents. A glimpse into who they were before the disease took over.

An opportunity to help

I hope this helps to inspire you to create a memory book with or for your loved one. Alzheimer's disease is persistent. It was honestly so therapeutic for me to have an opportunity to do something that helped my parents.

All too often, I stood by, feeling helpless against this disease. However, this tool allowed me a chance to see something make a tangible difference in the quality of their lives.

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