Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 29th of December 2015.
Loss of memory is one of the saddest aspects of dementia; it can leave a person feeling confused, lonely, and without a sense of identity. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, one of the best ways to try to overcome these feelings is with a memory box. Filled with mementoes and keepsakes, memory boxes can stir forgotten memories, help to stimulate the senses, encourage conversation, and help you to gain a better understanding of who your loved one is as a person.
Here are our top tips for making a memory box.
First things first, you need to bear in mind that this memory box may be opened and used many times so a flimsy shoe box might not be up to the task. If you have several memory boxes for different occasions or moments in your loved one’s life, using less sturdy boxes might be fine but otherwise try to choose a box that will be able to handle lots of use. If it’s a one-off memory box featuring keepsakes from a person’s entire life, it might be nice to use a large ornamental container to make it feel special.
Next, you’ll need to fill the box with whatever keepsakes and mementoes you think will be relevant to your loved one. You can choose anything from old photographs to reminiscence cards – anything that might trigger happy memories. Try including items that recall a favourite hobby or specific moments from your loved one’s life for the most impact.
Memory boxes are also great for stimulating the senses so it can be a good idea to include items that will work in this way. Try swatches of cloth from an old much-loved dress, shells picked up on a favourite beach, recordings of familiar sounds, memory bank DVDs, or even a small bottle of a loved one’s perfume (smell is supposed to be strongly connected to memory recall, after all).
Do bear in mind that the memory box may be used when you’re not around though, so make sure there’s nothing dangerous (sharp items, for example) inside and that the box can be retrieved and opened without too much trouble.
When it comes to opening the box, try not to have too many expectations. Your loved one might not find it useful on that particular day or they might only be interested in talking about one item. Alternatively, the box might lead to many happy memories being recalled. If one or two items in particular seem to be effective, you could suggest making another memory box revolving around those specific items or memories. Whatever their reaction, remember to encourage them to talk about the memories stirred. It’ll be fun and reassuring for them, and endlessly fascinating for you.