Dementia robs your loved one of a lifetime of memories, but pictures and photos can help them hold onto some of the details. The images you use don't have to be photographs you've taken. Art, diagrams, drawings and other images can all be helpful to someone with dementia. Learn more about how to incorporate images when you spend time with your loved one.
Photos and pictures may help stimulate memories that someone with dementia wouldn't otherwise recall. They're a little like a visual aid that helps with recall. Viewing these images allows them to reminisce even if they don't fully remember the situations for themselves. Photos might be especially helpful in jogging the memory during the early stages of dementia, but they can be beneficial at any stage.
For some people with dementia, looking at photos can be distressing. They might feel frustrated if they can't remember the people or events in the photos, or they might not want to talk about photos when they're tired or already frustrated.
Images that could create a negative feeling can also cause distress in someone with dementia. They may not be able to differentiate between images and reality, so they might experience the negative emotions associated with that situation. Pay attention to how your loved one reacts and adjust how you use the photos to avoid these negative effects.
Meaningful photos from the person's past make the most impact on them. It doesn't just have to be your loved one or other people in the photos. It can also be places and things that have meaning. Some examples include:
Photos and pictures can be useful in various ways when a loved one has dementia. Try different options to see which ones they respond to the most. Here are some ideas.
Making customized photo albums gives your loved one an option to look at photos whenever they want. Choose the images carefully to be meaningful. You might create different photo albums with different themes or different types of photos. Letting your loved one help assemble the photos gives you another opportunity to make connections and discuss the images.
You don't have to stick to photos you've already taken to share with someone who has dementia. Continuing to take photos with your loved one can also support their memory. Take pictures for them or help them take photos that they want to have. Keeping a journal along with the pictures can also help them remember the details. Polaroid cameras make this easy because you can attach the photos to the journal right away and add captions immediately.
A digital photo frame that automatically flips through photos gives your loved one more variety than traditional framed photos. This can be effective in a memory care setting with little room for framed photos. The changing photos might help keep them interested and let them see many different people and images.
When you visit your loved one, look through the photos together. Talk about the people in them and the circumstances surrounding the picture. You might share stories about a trip that's in some of the photos, for instance. Encourage your loved one to talk about the photos as well, but don't worry if they don't get the details correct. Asking specific questions about the photos, or past events in general, can spark conversation with a person with dementia.
While photos can be beneficial, it's important to use them carefully to make them effective. These tips can help:
Using photos can be powerful when you let your loved one set the pace.
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