The Value of Scrapbooks and Photo Albums for Older Adults

With the holidays nearing and families planning visits to see their loved ones in a memory care community, one helpful tip is to bring a scrapbook photo album to share, recommends Jennifer Almodovar, CTRS, Memory Care activities director of The Palace Gardens Homestead.

“Photos from the past help our residents reminisce about pleasant times in their lives. Photographs from the present help people relate to their current situation and that is equally important,” she explains.

It’s a great family project to pull together various photos of someone’s family, friends and home. Large easily identifiable photographs are best so those with poor eyesight can detect the people in the photograph as well as see themselves. These can be easily reproduced at a local drugstore or Costco. Old faded pictures can be inexpensively restored and bring so much joy. Jennifer recommends that pictures need to be put in an album with plastic pages. If these are accompanied by journaling, large letters need to be used along with simple language. This will help a caregiver use the details when working with the resident. Name the photo album or scrapbook “Resident’s Name’s Story” or something like this to personalize it. Having a photo album in their room helps a resident feel a sense of home with something that is familiar to them.

Be sure to include photographs of the resident smiling since seeing a photograph of one’s self smiling usually brings another smile and helps instill a feeling of happiness. Pictures of present day are good too and include pictures of family members, caregivers, friends and their environments both past and present.

Pictures should be arranged in a type of chronological order or timeline that gives someone a sense of their past and present.

A family bringing a photo album to leave behind with their loved one can be a nice shared activity as family members compiling photographs can evoke their memories too.

A photo album is also a useful tool for caregivers. They can see the person as a human being maybe when they were a mother or father or enjoying an activity with their loved ones.

Albums provided trained caregivers with information about the resident and can be used as a part of reminiscence therapy. An album stimulates remote memories which do not fade as quickly as current memories and help patients deal with Alzheimer’s disease and improve their general well-being. Reminiscence therapy targets the patient’s self-esteem and confidence and results in short-term improvements.

Also, a final tip, when you visit, be sure to take pictures but don’t just keep them on your smart phone. It’s easy to take these to a drugstore or photo store and get them printed to be shared.

It’s often said that “a picture’s worth a thousand words” but in the case of someone with Alzheimer’s disease a picture unlocks memories and those are priceless, she said.