Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Recall Memories

Look at old photos together, create a memory box or make a favorite family recipe; these are just few ways to jog their memory and comfort them at the same time. 

Posted in , Feb 26, 2020

A family member clasps hands with loved one with dementia

For someone who has memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or other dementias, memories from long ago are usually more vivid than recent ones. As Mary Pembleton found with her grandfather, asking about earlier days can help you develop a closer relationship. Try these tips from Home Instead Senior Care to evoke and capture memories for your loved one:

Ask open-ended questions. They can spark a meaningful conversation. Work up to the deeper questions. Some ideas: What was it like where you grew up? What did your parents and grandparents do for a living? What did you and your friends do for fun as teenagers? What are some valuable things you learned from your parents? What accomplishments are you most proud of? What are you most grateful for?

Look through old photos together. Offer your comments to get started: “That looks like Grandma” or “This must be from your honeymoon.” If certain photos elicit vivid memories, set them aside to revisit later. Or create a scrapbook: Collect photos and mementos, and write down snippets of personal history that go with them.

Tell “I remember when” stories, and record them on video. All generations will have fun sharing stories and watching the video afterward.

Create a family tree. Compile a genealogy and other info about prior generations with the help of your loved one, especially if he or she is the only living link to your family’s history.

Make a memory box. The sense of touch can trigger recall. Gather items that have meaning to your family member in one place—a box, a basket, a drawer. Have the person hold each item and share what it brings to mind. You can put together themed boxes with items relating to a specific experience, such as a favorite trip, a baseball game, a nature walk.

Listen to music from their younger days. Even after dementia limits verbal communication, people still remember and respond to music, particularly from their youth. Make a “life soundtrack”: Include hits from each decade of your loved one’s life, songs from their wedding, fa- vorite hymns or carols, music featuring an instrument they played— and sing or clap along together to it.

Cook or bake a special family recipe. Because the sense of smell has the most direct connection to memory, the aroma of a favorite dish can bring back wonderful memories.

 For more tips on caring for someone who has dementia, visit

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