By Missy Athmer Marketing Director – If you are anything like me, you have lots of photos of your family and friends. Recently my sister, who is moving, decided to pass down our family album to me, adding to the collection. Of course I sat for a couple of hours poring over the photos, laughing and talking to my husband about all the great stuff we did as a family, until he couldn’t take it anymore. I even posted a couple of photos on Facebook just for fun! It had been years since I had seen those photos and it brought back so many good memories.

I got to thinking…could looking through old photo albums be a fun activity to do if your loved one suffers from dementia? I did a little research to see if sharing memories through photos would be beneficial without it becoming stressful for you or your loved one. Here’s what I learned.

I understand from the articles I read that some people with dementia are able to express their feelings or talk about their life experiences. This is a great way for them to express their value as a person. Even when their memory is inconsistent, to engage with them while they remember happy times is therapeutic and valuable to you both.

The photos may help to get that conversation going. Since home and family (assuming it was relatively happy) are central to all our lives, this might be a place to start.

I also read that people with dementia sometimes retain a wealth of long-term memories that they can share, although it works better if you can avoid direct or specific questions. The goal is to give your family member the opportunity to share cherished memories. It should focus on what the person can and wants to remember. To help them, you can slip facts into a comment while looking at a photo. For example— “Oh look, there’s your sister Joan—she always has the biggest smile, and there’s Snoopy the dog, he’s always begging for treats!” This way the person won’t have the embarrassment of having forgotten the person’s or dog’s name, and the comment might help lead to another memory they will want to share.

Another tip I learned was to pay attention to the photos that evoke the most memories or favorites that bring a happier experience. Take those photos and make a smaller album. This will make it easier to access at times when you both need to share a laugh and a joyful moment together.