6 Essential Reasons to Create a Memory Box for Someone Living With Dementia

For someone living with dementia, at whatever stage, a memory box can evoke powerful memories and positive emotions from the past, as well as stimulating conversations with loved ones and care-givers alike.

Why Everyone Living with Dementia Needs a Memory Box

A properly thought about memory box can provide a simple but incredibly effective way of linking someone living with dementia to the things they love and can help increase their sense of self-esteem and worth. Used to their full potential, a memory box can help to maintain personal identity and become a uniquely special haven for treasured memories.

Gathering together items to keep inside the box isn’t always quick or straightforward, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Here are our six essential reasons to make a memory box for every person living with dementia;

1. Evoke fond memories of youth, hobbies and interests, family and the things which make us, ‘ us’.

2. Memory boxes provide a fantastic opportunity to prompt interaction and conversation with care-givers, family, friends and other residents. Studies show that such activities increase social interaction, help reduce isolation and increase patient well-being.

3. Include items which stimulate the senses. Sight, touch, smell, sounds, textures and even taste can be incredibly powerful reminiscence tools. Something as seemingly trivial as the smell of coal tar soap or a piece of cashmere fabric can often transport someone back to specific point in time.

4. Encourage creativity – Memory boxes are a brilliant two-way activity. Get hands-on and ask everyone involved (carers, family and the person themselves) to make a contribution. You can use a memory box in so many original and inspiring ways. The only limit is your imagination.

5. Provide a priceless insight into the life of your loved one or resident. Perhaps the cruelest aspect of dementia and associated conditions is the sense that the person has been ‘robbed’ of their sense of belonging and identity. Celebrate the life they enjoyed and help improve the situation they are living with now.

6. Help to enhance the care environment with vibrancy, personality and a sense of ‘home’.

Choosing appropriate contents

When working with care home residents, family or a loved-one to create a memory box, originality and creativity should be encouraged. It’s also important to consider;

Safety – Avoid sharp or heavy objects. Don’t forget that care providers and family might open the box, so consider their safety, too.

Significance – It’s tempting to simply choose items that relate to, say, a certain decade, but often the events, objects and experiences that leave a lasting impression relate to interactions with another person – a spouse, children, parents, close friends. Try not to be too general.

Sounds, Smells & Textures – The immediate impact of stimulating these senses can be staggering and is an area of continued research. A favourite perfume or cologne, a piece of music with a special meaning or the feel of a treasured trinket can all help stir memories.

Ideally, the objects inside the box should be easy to handle. Think about how the objects feel to the touch. Try to include a mix of textures – smooth, silky, rough, soft, hard – textures can help recall memories and events. Most care settings have facilities to play music and favourite scents can often be purchased in small tester bottles.

Value – Consider the uniqueness of an item. If it is completely irreplaceable, it might be advisable to leave it out. Bear in mind that, depending on the care environment, a variety of people may be able to access the box.

What should I put in a memory box?

Memory boxes are supplied empty for a reason: they are designed to be filled with personal items and memorabilia which are meaningful and important to the person intended to view it. What goes inside the memory box is limited only by the imagination of family and carers (and possibly size!). Here are some suggestions for keepsakes you might want to include;

  • Family photos,
  • Holiday souvenirs,
  • A name tag of a beloved pet,
  • A CD containing music with special meaning,
  • Artwork from children or grandchildren,
  • Sporting cards, tickets or badges,
  • Favourite recipes,
  • Treasured poems or phrases,
  • Pictures of meaningful landmarks,
  • Newspaper cuttings,
  • Medals, certificates, awards or achievements,
  • A favourite scent,
  • A section of map from a cherished walk,
  • …and much, much more.

Why not ask family members for their ideas?

DementiaSigns.co.uk Memory Boxes – Purpose Built and Made to Last

Our range of memory boxes make a practical and attractive addition to every care setting, whether in a professional care home or within a family home. Constructed from a quality wood veneer in a choice of finishes, the contents are protected from dust and accidental knocks by a slide-out sheet of clear Perspex.

Inside, a clear Perspex shelf and pin-board backing provide a range of convenient ways to present meaningful items. Convenient hanging cut-outs on the back mean mounting them on a wall or door is straightforward and quick. Contact us today for a quotation and to discuss other ideas to enhance and improve any dementia-related care setting.

Make Time to Share the Experience

The brilliant thing about a carefully compiled memory box is that often, objects intended to stir a certain memory actually trigger another. To the outside world, a monochrome wedding day photo might seem to represent an obvious memory, but for the bride or groom of years ago, the smell of the bouquet, the feel of the wedding dress fabric or the music that Uncle Sid danced the rumba to might be what they really remember.

Plan ahead and make time to share the experience of opening the box and watch and listen to the reactions the items trigger. Ask the person looking through the items inside the box to share the events or thoughts the objects bring to mind. Ideally, keep a note for future reference. You could change or refine the contents depending on the reactions you see.

What are your experiences of using memory boxes and other reminiscence activities? Have you found a creative way of interacting positively with resident and families alike? Do you have an idea for a product you’d like to see available to help encourage reminiscence and social interaction with people living with dementia? Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.