5 Reasons to Make a Memory Box for Alzheimer’s

For loved ones, parents or seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, a memory box can help recall events and people from the past. These memories can stimulate the senior, prompting conversation with loved ones. 5 Reasons to Make a Memory Box for Alzheimer's

Whether a family photo, newspaper clipping or other prop; memory boxes hold items that bring us back to a moment in time that we hold dear. When a senior who has Alzheimer’s opens a memory box, it can stir thoughts of happy moments in life and give that person something to talk about.

Reasons to Create a Memory Box for Alzheimer’s

Memory boxes can link loved ones to their identity, with keepsakes emphasizing an overall holiday, person or theme that lifts the senior’s spirit. Though it will take time to find which keepsakes to store in the memory box, it is worth the effort.

Here are five reasons to make a memory box for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s:

  1. Exercise, touch and other senses used in the creation of a memory box will become more important for a loved one to rely on as Alzheimer’s progresses.
  2. Fond memories of a senior’s history, personal interests and youth can be explored.
  3. Memory boxes can inspire conversation with caregivers, children or grandchildren.
  4. More insight into your loved one and their past will be gained. When you search for keepsakes to include in a memory box, you may find special items you did not realize the senior still had or was interested in.
  5. Spurred creativity from the creation of a memory box. The senior may be inspired to create another box about a different life event or memory.

Ways to Make a Memory Box

A memory box can be as decorative or as simple as you like. It can be a plastic bin or a shoe box, whichever you prefer. Ideally, it will be easy to access and lift, store a number of items of reasonable shapes and sizes, and fit on your loved one’s lap or a small table.

If the memory box has compartments, make sure they suit the senior’s dexterity and that the senior can open the memory box easily.

Learn more from these tips about ways to choose keepsakes for your memory box:

Choosing Keepsakes

Items stored in a memory box should be personal, like a baby’s toy or postcard. The memory box should reflect the senior’s interests or a moment in history that has meaning to that individual.

When you choose keepsakes for the memory box, consider:

  • Safety: Avoid heavy or sharp items.
  • Significance: Focus on items linked to positive memories.
  • Texture: Items should be easy to handle; texture itself can help stir memories.
  • Uniqueness: If an item is irreplaceable, leave it out.

Bear in mind that a loved one may not recognize items right away or understand why they were included. So, consider labeling each item with a sticker or tag. You can also list the items on a piece of paper, and write a phrase or sentence about each one.

Keepsake Ideas

Here are some suggestions for keepsakes you might include in a senior’s memory box:

  • A baby toy
  • A baseball or cards
  • A keychain
  • A letter
  • A recipe
  • Artwork by children or grandchildren
  • Dried flowers
  • Family photos
  • Postcards
  • Sheet music
  • Vacation souvenirs

You can create multiple memory boxes with different themes with your loved one — maybe one could hold memories of children and another of a favorite hobby, for instance. The keepsakes do not have to fit into a single box.

When you open the memory box with your senior loved one, ask the senior to share his or her memories with you. You may find that an item that was meant to stir a certain memory brings on another. Or, it could inspire a waterfall of thoughts and conversation, leaving you with new, lasting memories of your senior loved one.

Have you created a memory box with a senior loved one before? Let us know what you included in your memory box and what suggestions you have for others in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Kathleen Hibben

    going to start a memory box for mom for mothers day 2014

  • I’ve always thought memory boxes were a “simple” way for family caregivers to enrich the care partner experience. Your article lays it out in an informative and easy to understand format. I hope tons of caregivers find your article so they can utilize the process.

  • nanabrown

    I currently care for an 84 yr old woman in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and will get started on helping her create her own memory box. What a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing.

  • Christina

    I am making one for my 96 year old Dad. Thanks

  • Gay Ann Christian

    I work in a nursing home ,and I’m part of a B.S.O. team and we are always looking for Idea’s to help us with our residents with alzhiemers or dementia . I love to read your articals !! We have done similar things with our residents . It’s all about trying ,to see what works .I have found music and pictures help alot !!

  • susan parker

    Memory boxes . In mine I have furry cat and dog, Scented old fashioned soap, a nail brush shaped like a duck – for memories of childhood bath time. a shell that you can hear the waves in. Wedding parafanallia, Bookmarks with pictures on , . and so much more. I use an old vanity case for my memory box and even though it is mainly ladies there are some things in it that men can relate to. Ie A ring in a case. reminding them of perhaps of the proposal to their wife etc. A shell that can be put to their ear. Memories of the beach.
    This case I have had for 23 years when I worked for Alzheimers. I retired but now at 73 for the past 5 years I have been back at work as a Lifestyle co-ordinator in a nursing home with dementia residents. I can’t ever see me retiring
    The things I pull out of my vanity case give much enjoyment and wonderful stories to hear ,all have a meaning and provide so much including the social aspect. I can sit for an hour and hold everyone’s attention with the stories they tell. Yes a memory box is a necessity. Toolboxes work the same for the men.
    Another thing is to get the families to put into an album -My Story

    • Yvonne

      Thank you for your ideas. This has helped me and my kids when choosing memory box items for my 66 year old Dad who has had Alzheimer’s for the past 6 years or more. I applaud you for all your work & efforts. What a star!

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