September 23, 2021

How to Capture Memories with a Dementia Diagnosis

Client and Caregiver

It can be fun and fulfilling to reminisce with friends during a class reunion or with family at a get-together. Somehow the memories seem to grow richer with time, and the stories come alive and get better with the telling.

For someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, those memories and stories become more important than ever. Old memories are usually more vivid and easier to recall than more recent ones.  

In fact, this characteristic is typical of a dementia diagnosis. Alzheimer’s may cause impairments in short-term memory, however remote memory can be left relatively intact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This means someone can remember public and personal events from many decades ago but is unable to recall what happened earlier in the day. That’s why activities that help revive memories, especially in the early stages of dementia, can help keep that person engaged longer.

Try these memory-evoking activities

Look through old photo albums.

Point out who you see in pictures and talk about any memories associated. If your loved one doesn’t seem to recognize what’s pictured, just move on.

Create a scrapbook.

Collecting saved mementos and recording written memories will stimulate fond memories for your loved one and allow them to share personal history for future generations.

Tell “I remember when” stories and record them on video.

This is an activity all generations can enjoy together. You’ll have fun telling the stories and everyone, including your family member living with Alzheimer’s, will be able to enjoy watching the video.

Re-read saved letters and greeting cards.

Messages full of love and well-wishes endure the test of time. They can stir up positive feelings and memories as they’re read again and again.

Pass family heirlooms on to the next generation.

When objects that have been in the family for a long time get handed down, the stories associated do as well. If possible, have your family member living with dementia share how the item was acquired, how long it has been in the family, and what makes it special.

Listen to music of your loved one’s youth.

Music has the power to reach past the mind and touch the soul and it can have a soothing, therapeutic effect for those living with dementia. The music may evoke memories from that era.

Compile important information about your family’s heritage.

Your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may be one of the only living links to your family’s history. Create a map of your family’s genealogy and record any information about prior generations.

Bake that special family recipe.

Family traditions often revolve around food. The sense of smell has the strongest and most direct connection to memory, which could trigger wonderful memories for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

  • Do involve other family members. Don’t put the person living with Alzheimer’s on the spot.
  • Do look at photographs together. Don’t expect the person to recognize everything.
  • Do share your own thoughts as they relate to memories. Don’t monopolize the conversation.
  • Do ask specific, personal questions. Don’t interrogate.
  • Do ask good questions. Don’t expect a five-hour session.
  • Do focus on general memories and emotion. Don’t focus on exact facts and details.

Person-Centered Dementia Care

Home Instead CAREGivers are trained using a one-of-a-kind protocol for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Our person-centered approach honors your loved one and preserves their dignity.
Caregiver and senior looking at tablet