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6 Best Ways to Stimulate Memories Through Photos

Written by Mark Huntsman
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023

A great part of someone’s personal identity comes from knowing where they are on the timeline of their lives. When your loved one starts to lose their memory, they start to lose their sense of self. Though, there are ways to stimulate the mind when living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Learn more about the six best ways to stimulate memories through photos during this time.

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Sharing photos with someone who has Alzheimer’s

The fact of the matter is that visual aids — especially photos — can help stimulate memories for someone with Alzheimer’s, and this holds true for people in the early stages of the disease as well as those with late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Image association through photographs can play a key role in allowing those living with Alzheimer’s to reminisce about pleasant times in their lives, just as it can also help them to be engaged in the present moment by helping them remember the people in their lives.
Let’s take a look at a few different ways that families and caregivers can use photos to create opportunities for those affected by Alzheimer’s, to connect with those around them and themselves.

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Step 1: Make the album personal to the person affected

By naming a photo album or scrapbook “[Name]’s Story,” or something along those lines, you can help a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s create a sense of home — something they know is about making them feel comfortable and familiar and pleasant.
If it’s possible to get a photo of your loved one smiling, place it at the front of the album. When they see a photo of themselves smiling, they often instinctively smile back, which elicits a feeling of happiness.
Examples of the kinds of photos to put in the album include shots of family members, caretakers, friends, and environments both past and present. By creating a sense of timeline, you give them the opportunity to visit past memories as well as connect with recent events and people currently in their lives.

Step 2: Make the pictures large and clearly labeled

Many people with Alzheimer’s have poor or declining eyesight, which is the most obvious reason for using large pictures when helping your loved one put together a photo album.
If you’re helping them journal in conjunction with making a photo album, do your best to ensure that the writing is clear and uses simple language.

Step 3: Use a camera and journal to chronicle events

By encouraging your loved one to use a journal or scrapbook alongside a camera, you can give them the chance to chronicle people they meet and experiences they have, which may be of concrete help in remembering them later.
At this point in the digital age, your smart phone’s camera may take photos of higher quality than the camera you bought just a few years ago. Naturally, a senior’s ability to use a given piece of technology is going to depend on the stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia they have, and fortunately, you can find the option that fits for them, whether using a digital camera, phone, or old-fashioned Polaroid.

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Step 4: Digital health platform that integrates gaming and art therapy

Startup company MemVu inserts personal and family photos into online art therapy exercises. Particularly for seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, looking at photos of friends and loved ones and experiences can help create positive feelings and mood.
Broadly speaking, MemVu’s purpose is to make the experience of looking at photos more participatory — the more like a game it is, the more a loved one has the opportunity to feel involved with it.

Step 5: Help a loved one keep a scrapbook that is meaningful to them

There are a couple of key advantages to be found in helping seniors create and continue to add to a scrapbook-style photo album. The first, of course, is that it’s a relaxing and rewarding activity. But the second is that, when this has been done as a group activity, what’s been found to happen is that the person affected will recognize each other in the photos, which offers a starting point for conversation.

Step 6: Join a cloud-based photo site

There are a number of cloud-based photo services out there — that is, web services that store member photos online and let you create different styles of albums.
We had the pleasure of conversing with the founder, Sean Rooney, of a new platform called My Own Memory Lane. It is designed for anyone, but is particularly helpful for the caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s because of its simple layout. When we asked him specifically about the advantages of creating a digital, cloud-based album that’s customized on behalf of the user, Rooney said, “Memory in general is very subjective, and a person’s significant memories are unique to that person… The real value here as I see it is providing the patient with a collection of personally significant images that will help keep them connected with their unique environment.”
Because My Own Memory Lane and similar digital photo services are based in the cloud, you can access the photos from anywhere — and any device, whether a tablet, Internet-connected TV, or video projector for slideshows.


Meet the Author
Mark Huntsman

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