Memory is precious. And finding ways to reminisce with someone living with dementia can be incredibly soothing.
Dementia can be an isolating experience; and it can be particularly stressful for a loved one living with dementia to struggle with recollection. As such, it’s vital that people living with dementia are afforded opportunities to stimulate memory and reconnect with their past.
Dementia memory boxes are a simple, effective way of prompting recollection, that also function as an enriching social experience for you and your loved one to participate in.
Read on for a straightforward guide on how to make a memory box and what to include in a dementia memory box.
What Are Memory Boxes?
Simply put, memory boxes are boxes containing objects of sentimental value; designed to stimulate memory by providing a person living with dementia an opportunity to reminisce, using totemic items to facilitate the process.
You don’t have to use a specific type of box either, though many are available. Anything, from shoe boxes to empty tins, can be turned into a keepsake memory box.
Evocative and interactive; studies have shown that memory boxes can be highly effective in stimulating reminiscence in people living with dementia. Easy to put together, and providing valuable opportunities for conversation and reflection, memory boxes can be incredibly valuable.
How Can Memory Boxes Help?
By including objects from a person’s childhood and youth – although, items from any period of someone’s life can be included – a keepsake memory box can trigger fond memories. Which holds benefits for both long and short-term memory, taking advantage of the five senses to stimulate recollection.
Memory boxes can also provide a valuable social experience for a person living with dementia, as sifting through objects and discussing related memories can be deeply satisfying and provide much-needed emotional stimulation.
How to Make a Memory Box
There’s no set rule for what to use as a keepsake memory box, so feel free to use whatever you’d like. Some people prefer to purchase bespoke wooden boxes as part of a gift, while others opt to repurpose shoe boxes or empty tins, so choose whatever feels right to you or your loved one.
What to Include in Dementia Memory Boxes
It’s important that the items included in your memory box are able to trigger a range of strong emotions, and studies have shown that the best way to achieve this is by appealing to the five senses – sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell.
For example, a photograph of someone with friends from their youth, or an object from a previous occupation or hobby – even a block of their favourite chocolate! The key is to ensure the items included in your keepsake memory box link to specific periods or events in a person’s life, but try to avoid anything that your loved one may find upsetting, such as photographs of loved ones who’ve passed away.
Ideas for Your Keepsake Memory Box
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for how to make a memory box, as it’s important that items are tailored to a specific person, but here are some ideas as a starting point.
- Photographs of friends and family
- Favourite books
- Newspaper cuttings from significant news events, such as film premiers or royal weddings
- Perfumes, aftershaves, soaps, or lotions
- Smells a person will associate with their former occupation, such as oils or flowers
- Music from a person’s youth. Physical media (CDs, tapes, vinyl) can be useful here as the act of handling the item may trigger memory
- A person’s favourite biscuits or chocolate. Especially those from their youth, if possible.
- Objects from a previous hobby. For example, a sports ball, paintbrush, or musical instrument.
And those are just a few ideas for how to make a memory box. Whatever you choose to include in your memory box, make sure to involve your loved one as much as possible; make it an activity that you can share.