8 Ways to Share Memories with Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

Help your loved one remember good days from the past


- Posted on Feb 14, 2019

8 Ways to Share Memories with Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

“I will never forget when…” Aunt Rosemary began, launching into a story that soon had everyone in stitches. “At Mom’s surprise birthday party, the real surprise came when Nancy was carrying the cake to the table. She tripped over the dog and the cake went flying right out of her hands and into Mom’s lap! Dad jumped up and grabbed a glass of water. He was still putting out the candle flames as Mom was yelling, ‘Make a wish! Make a wish!’ It was unbelievable—there was more food on her lap than on the table and all she seemed to care about was Dad making his birthday wish!”

For a person with memory loss, long-ago experiences are usually more vivid and easier to recall than recent events. Sharing “remember-when” stories like this one is a great way for family members to stimulate memories in the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s also an opportunity to bring family members together to enjoy their shared history. If your loved one has trouble recalling specific details from the past or present, you and your family can provide them.

Following are eight tips that can help you evoke, share and preserve memories for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease:

1. Pull out old photo albums and leaf through them together. Identify the people in the pictures and share any recollections you have of the photo. If your loved one doesn’t seem to recognize what’s pictured, just move on.

2. Put together a scrapbook. The act of collecting saved mementos and recording written memories associated with each will not only stimulate remembrances of happy times for the person with Alzheimer’s. It also allows that person to share and record snippets of personal history for future generations while he or she still can.

3. Use a video camera to preserve “I remember when” stories. Family members of all ages can enjoy doing this together. You’ll have fun recalling these anecdotes, and everyone, including your loved one with Alzheimer’s, will be able to enjoy watching the video over and over.

4. Revisit old letters and greeting cards. Messages full of love and well-wishes endure the test of time. When you read them again to someone with Alzheimer’s, they can bring positive memories and feelings back.

5. Hand down family heirlooms to the younger generation. When objects that have been in the family for a long time are passed along, the stories associated with them get handed down too. Ask your loved one with dementia to share any possible memories of the object. The person may remember something of its history and special significance.

6. Play music from the person’s younger days. Music has the power to reach past the mind and touch the soul. Even if your loved one with Alzheimer’s can no longer remember details from the present or past, familiar music can have a soothing, therapeutic effect.

7. Map out your family’s genealogy, including any information your loved one may still recall about previous generations. It is a good bet that your family member with Alzheimer’s is one of the few living links to the history of your clan. Take time to compile important information about your family’s heritage while you still can.

8. Find a favorite family recipe and cook together. Many of our family traditions are rooted in food. Since the sense of smell has the strongest and most direct connection to memory, specific aromas wafting from the kitchen can trigger wonderful memories for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

For other ideas and best practices for evoking memories to benefit a family member with dementia, visit the Help for Alzheimer’s Families website.

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