For people living with dementia, reading is a preserved skill. Therefore visual aids that include written information can be used as memory supports. Memory books can improve quality of life by:
- Helping people remember important information
- Making conversation easier
- Reducing responsive (challenging) behaviors, such as exit seeking and repetitive questioning
- Providing reassurance and comfort
A memory book is a simple story of the person’s life. The book can be made simply with a three ring binder with non-glare page protectors. Each page contains a single photograph or memento and one sentence describing it. Sentences are written in the first person and include the names of people and places shown in the photo. The use of memory books with individuals living with dementia originated with Dr. Michelle Bourgeois.
Memory books can be used to facilitate conversations during family visits. They are also a great way for care partners to get to know new individuals living in the care community.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you use a memory book in conversation.
- Ask the person to have a conversation with you.
- Guide the conversation by commenting on the photos and information in the memory book.
- Redirect the conversation back to the topic when the person begins to ramble.
- Reassure the person and help out when he or she gets stuck and can’t find a word.
- Smile and act interested in whatever the person is talking about even if you aren’t sure what is being said.
- Thank the person for talking with you.
There are a few common pitfalls you will want to avoid when using a memory book in conversation.
- Do not quiz the person or ask a lot of specific questions.
- Do not correct or contradict something that was stated as fact even if you know it’s wrong.
A memory book is a simple tool that can greatly improve quality of life for a person living with dementia. To learn more about making a memory book, watch this video.