How to Preserve Family Memories for Loved Ones with Dementia

One of dementia’s greatest cruelties is that it can steal treasured memories. One of the most valuable things you can do for your loved ones is help preserve these memories for both their prolonged enjoyment and their legacy.

At Home Instead Camden we help people deal with many forms of dementia, and know that memories are one of the most powerful and important possessions a person can have. If dementia is threatening to, or has begun to, eat away at these, there are steps you can take to help your loved ones preserve their memories. That might be through careful planning and formal recording, or just being ready to absorb and preserve spontaneous and nostalgic recollections.

Remember, you don’t need to create a journalistic and precise record a person’s whole life. Instead, you should create an environment for them to share their cherished memories with you in a comfortable, relaxed setting. Let them lead on what they can and want to remember. Try to gauge their limitations and frustrations to make sure the reminiscing is enjoyable, not stressful.

Sessions might involve putting on some classic songs from decades past, spreading out photos on a coffee table or flicking through albums. You might find it easiest to make notes, or record audio or video while you talk. Whatever format you choose, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Involve other family members. This will help prevent the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia feeling ‘put on the spot’, and will make the session feel like an inclusive conversation, rather than pressured session.
  • Look at photos together. Don’t expect them to recognise everything and everyone. Focus on the things they do recognise, and the stories that spring to mind.
  • Share your own thoughts as they relate to the memories your loved one shares. Don’t monopolise the conversation, but let them know that they don’t have to do all the talking.
  • Ask specific, personal questions. But don’t interrogate.
  • Ask good questions and record the discussion. You can’t expect a five-hour session, so try to use the time well.
  • Focus on general memories and emotions. Don’t focus on precise facts and details.

If you follow these steps you will be able to capture and conserve some beautiful memories, and the very process of sitting and talking through good times in the past will be an enriching and wonderful experience.