The Power of a Photo

On Saturday 19th August it is World Photo Day! A photo can be a small, seemingly insignificant item. However, that one small piece of paper can be very powerful.

On Saturday 19th August it is World Photo Day. A photograph can be a small, seemingly insignificant item. However, that one small piece of paper can be very powerful. A photo holds a thousand memories. It is a captured moment of time, that can transport you back to a moment in time. Some photos hold many emotions, and simply looking at that photo can bring forth that emotion in you. For example, a photo of a wedding will make you feel joy and love, a photo of a silly memory may make you laugh.

As we grow older our memories feel more precious to us. As such, having photos of special moments and points in our lives become even more important. It can also have a strong impact on someone living with Dementia. Many studies have shown that photographs can trigger deep memories where verbal communications are unable to tap. This is where the photos work to stimulate their memory function and assists to stimulate the brain.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s top tips for using photos to support someone with Dementia include using meaningful photos, show them in chronological order, share your memories of photos too, ask open-ended questions to encourage conversation, connect don’t correct- remember it is not a test. As always it is always good to speak slowly and calmly, remember that your loved one may not be able to recall the photo or memory, and this is okay. Sometimes participating in reflecting on their life can be just as positive for a person as recalling those memories themselves. Try to remember the act of sitting and sharing your memories and connections to photos can help you connect with your loved one, even if they can’t recall the memory.


The easiest way to use photos to support a loved one is to dig out the old photo albums. Ask the family for any photos they have of any special times or occasions. Then you can sit down with a tea and a cake and look through the photos or albums. You may find that seeing some photos will bring forth memories with perfect recall. For some a photo may just bring back an emotion, where you will be able to fill in the blanks. The best part of this is that you can get all the family involved! The grandchildren, and great children, may also like to see their parents and grandparents as children. Many enjoy hearing funny or interesting stories from their family’s past.

When you do this, you may also enjoy making a scrapbook or creating a new photo album. You can get everyone involved, use colours, sticky tape, and different textures. This can become a useful sensory tool as well as stimulating for the memory. When you are creating the scrapbook, you can talk about the memories. You could label them, date them, add anything that may be significant to those memories too. For example, if it is a photo from a wedding, maybe their dress was lace- so you could attach or stick in some lace fabric. Maybe it was a farm, or a forest walk- you could get some dried flowers or grass and stick it into the scrap book. But, don’t forget to leave space for future memories. The best part of this is that the act of making the scrapbook creates special memories in themselves!

After looking at old photos, you may notice that some spark more of a memory or a positive emotion or reaction. If you are able, you may wish to display these in your loved one’s home. Similarly, to the scrapbook, you may want to put a label on these with saying when they happened and who is in the photo. You could even have a page dedicated to each person- for a grandchild you may want to have photos of them growing up too Another way you could use these photos is to make a family tree- you could do this on a bit of paper, or plain wallpaper roll, or even make one to display on the wall.

Photos can also be useful for labelling things around the home. For example, bedroom draws could have photos of what is in them. Similarly, you could label the kitchen cupboards and draws with what is in them. This is also a useful tool for someone living with Dementia, where if their memory is declining and they struggle to remember people’s names, this can remove some anxiety and act as a prompt for them.

Technology can also be great for displaying photos. As technology has progressed there are more and more options available to us. You could get a Digital Photo Frame which will display several photos on rotation. On some devices such as a Portal you can again display numerous photos on rotation, whilst this also offers FaceTime abilities and so on. For some, this is not something that they like- where they prefer an old school photo frame and paper photo. However, there are some that enjoy sitting and watching the photos which ignite pleasant memories and emotions. Again, this also poses a chance to sit and reminisce with your loved ones while choosing what photos to upload onto the device. If you are interested in a digital photo device, below is a link of a website that does a comparison on some popular devices:

To take a photo can also be powerful. If you go to, or want to, take a photo it is normally when you want to capture a moment. Therefore, you have already, or are, making memories. As such photography presents the chance to get loved ones involved in taking photos. It could be you choose to plan days or occasions to create photo moments. You could even plan a family photo day, where you go somewhere and almost have a family photo shoot. You, or your loved one may enjoy taking photography up as a hobby. You could choose your subject or topic of photos and set off on an adventure. You could set a target of taking a photo of a bird, an animal, flower, or a lake for example. This coincidentally will also lead you to the positive effects being outdoors can offer.

At Home Instead Northampton we love to see our clients smile! One sure fire way to see a smile is to engage with someone looking at their old photos. To talk about happy memories, funny moments, and stories, to talk about (and maybe brag a little) about their families. We understand the importance a photo can hold to a person. How a photo is more than just a picture- it is a treasured memory, a slice of time and encompassed in an emotion

At Home Instead Northampton, our Care Professionals are always happy to sit and look at albums. They are also able to support their clients to use photos in ways that support them. This could be by using photos as prompts to support their routine. For example, they may use photos as label prompts, for someone living with Dementia we can use photos of our Care Professionals and label these with their names so our clients feel safe of knowing their team and who is coming to them. We are also happy to sit and make a scrapbook or collect or buy things with our clients to make a scrapbook.

Sometimes, it is the small acts and actions that can have the biggest impact. By simply sitting and looking at photos our clients know that we care and that our Care Professionals have time for them. Through this our Care Professionals also provide kindness, understanding, compassion, a hand to hold, and companionship. It is why so many of our clients at Home Instead Northampton have such lovely bonds with their Care Professionals.