The Benefits of a Memory Box for Alzheimer’s Sufferers
Contributed by Jeff Anderson
It will come as no great shock to anyone who’s worked with Alzheimer’s patients that the memory loss and confusion associated with the illness can prove a great source of stress. If fact, the cognitive deficits and emotional distress are probably the two most troubling and destructive features of Alzheimer’s disease. As such, anything that can provide relief from either or both of those symptoms is worth consideration by caregivers or anyone else who works with seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. One possible tool for the provision of that dual symptom-relief is the “memory box”.
A memory box is pretty much what it sounds like- a box (or any sort of container) that holds objects meant to elicit memories from someone’s life. The contents of a memory box necessarily vary from person to person, but there are some commonalities: besides being able to fit, every item included should be chosen based on its value for cueing memories. Family photos, letters, art made by kids or grandkids, postcards, prized trinkets, souvenirs from trips, etc.
Of course, every box should be personalized with items that are special to the specific Alzheimer’s patient and representative of their hobbies and pastimes- a golf ball, gardening trowel, knitting needles, stamps, coins and so on. Avoid anything heavy, fragile, items with points (like pins, sewing needles and fishing lures), and whatever else could present any kind of hazard for someone reaching into a box is a good idea. It can also help to avoid including anything that might recall sorrowful memories. Another good idea: items with a scent- perfumes, colognes, potpourri and so forth. Our olfactory faculty is by far the strongest memory-trigger of our senses.
The benefit of the memory box is multifold. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a sense of peace, familiarity, contentment, and nostalgia for the box’s owner. Furthermore, both the act of building the box and sorting through it later contribute to positive physical activity, exercising the senses like touch, sight, smell, etc. They also present an opportunity for cognitive exercises, particularly memory and recall, which is hugely important for Alzheimer’s patients. All of that, and the chance for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s to connect with another human being for a stimulating and relaxing sensory stroll down memory lane.
Although his career started as a creative author after graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Jeff Anderson found his calling when he started working with seniors. Besides researching and writing on issues affecting seniors, Jeff also enjoys chatting with others on Alzheimers.Net, a community for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families.