What’s a memory book? It’s a collection of photos or letters gathered together in an album, brag book or some kind of binder. It doesn’t have to be fancy or colorful. It does need to have content that has positive meaning for your loved one.
How can it help you as a family caregiver?
- Flipping through a book can offer comfort if your loved one is troubled.
- It can be a useful distraction if your loved one is restless or bored.
- Photos can help your loved one connect to friends and strangers alike.
- It can remind you of past, better times when you feel frustrated or annoyed.
For the elderly, their memories of the distant past can seem more distinct and sharper than the last month. This is natural. So, if you are making a photo book for a senior citizen mix and match the photos. If possible, include the oldest pictures you have. Then go to chronological order ending on the present time.
- Caption the pictures. You can use masking tape right over the picture. Put the names of people in the picture and the year and event, if known.
- Faces are cool. The elderly are more likely to recognize faces rather than names.
- Use black and white or color pictures. The clearer pictures the better.
Letter and Prose Book
You don’t have to confine memory books to just pictures. The main purpose of a memory book is for your loved one to have something tangible. As a family caregiver, thinking outside of the box is a good skill to practice.
- Photocopy favorite poems or short stories and include them in the book.
- Have siblings, other family members and close friends write short letters to your loved one that they can read over and over. Use a larger size book tailor made for preserving important keepsakes like letters.
- If your loved one likes crosswords or sudoku, clip some out and include them in the memory book. Instead of carrying around a memory book and a puzzle book, just carry one book.
Drawings and Mini Scrapbooks
Pictures do say a thousand words. But those made from the heart say so much more. Here are fun ideas to involve everyone in the family.
- Have the kids make drawings and art. Collect a few and put them into a book.
- Older teens can make a collage of pictures and images.
- Use the project to draw a family tree inside the book.
- If your loved one is a traveler and collects postcards, put some into the book to encourage them to reminisce.
- Use copies of favorite vintage cars, paintings, album covers or results from hobbies like knitted items or figurines. It can be anything that elicits good memories and feelings.
Digital Memory Book
In modern times, this type of book may be the easiest to make for you. However, keep in mind any limitations that your loved one may have. They may not be able to remember a series of steps to access the album on a tablet. Or they may lack the physical dexterity to use a smartphone. Try to make a book easy to find, use and reuse.
Take pictures of the pictures and art that you want to include. Use a program like Powerpoint (Windows) or Keynote (Mac) to build your album. After you’ve arranged the slides in the sequence you want them to be in, you can compile as a video or keep it in slide format.
You can create a specific photo album in Photos (Mac, IOS). Put photos and art within the album. Copy the album to iCloud. Download the album to a tablet or phone for your loved one’s use.
The memory book’s format is entirely up to you. Here are some ideas on the final product.
- Take the art, documents and copies of pictures to your local printer. They can bind the pages together in a neat package just like a real book.
- Go to a local Walgreens, Walmart or convenience store that offers Photo Services. Use their kiosk to create an album. Remember, you must have any photos, art and documents on a USB drive to faciliate transfer of files to the kiosk service. You can adjust the placement of text and other embellishments within the kiosk.
- Print your pictures and art on your printer in black and white or color. Place each sheet inside a transparent sheet protect with holes. Insert the sheets into a 3-ring binder.
- Use Apple’s IBook Author application to create a photo book. IBooks has many templates for you to use. You can download the finished book to your Mac or IOS device.
- Purchase a small picture album. Print your picture and art. Slip them into the album sleeves for an instant memory book.
Give some thought to the size of the memory book. It can be small and portable or letter-sized like a full binder. For a first project to see how receptive your loved one would be to a memory book, I recommend a smaller size like a half sheet or a standard 4×6 photo album with a dozen pages.
In my experience, a memory book is welcomed. However, your loved one may be indifferent. Or they may need time to get used to the idea. Leave it at a location where they could find it. Perhaps curiosity will prevail and they will take a look at it. Or you can fashion it as a gift. Wrap it in a box and present it on their birthday or anniversary.
You’re not limited to one book at a time. If they love it, make more. You can make themed books like a wedding anniversary book, a superhero book or a book for each grandchild and grandma/grandpa combination. Be creative!
There is one thing that applies to every book. Make sure that it has your loved one’s name on it like “John’s Memory Book” or “Grandma Jane’s Love Book.” It’s a sign of pride. As people age, they feel a loss of control. Knowing that something is theirs can give them a measure of control and dignity. It reminds them that they do have people who care for them and that their life is full.