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What Is A Memory Box For Dementia

Talk To Older People About Their Life

Memory Boxes for people living with Dementia

When beginning the creative process of designing a memory box, it is often beneficial to start by talking to family and friends, to gain an insight into the moments and experiences that they prize most dearly. As people grow in age, their memory weakens, so speaking first to close family is a good way to gain a broad overview of someone’s life. One option is to ask a family member to fill out a life story on paper, including sections on work history and hobbies.

Once you have this information, it can be used as a starting point for conversation with the person making the memory box, encouraging them to think back into their past and express memories that they might otherwise not think to. This provides the basis from which to pick a few key memories to put at the heart of the memory box.

Ensure Residents Are Actively Involved

While family, friends and carers undoubtedly have a vital role to play in helping their loved one to make a memory box, the process will be a more fulfilling and rewarding experience for that individual if they play an active part in collecting materials. If the individual can choose their most cherished memories, and then identify and put together objects that reflect this in a meaningful way, they will go away with a great sense of achievement, and have something to look back on and say “I made that”.

Once again, there are endless ways that the individual can play an active role in creating their box. Previously, I have witnessed a resident produce a stunning piece of needlework to reflect some of their most influential memories. Others may consider drawing or painting a picture, or going in search of objects around their home or garden, or in a shop. That is precisely what the former teacher at our care home did when gathering the classroom items to put together her memory box.

Memory Box Guide For Seniors With Dementia

Memory boxes can be an effective way to provide a stimulating and engaging activity for seniors with Alzheimers disease or a related form of dementia. And the good news is that they are easy and inexpensive to assemble.

  • Dont include small items that can present a choking hazard in a memory box. It isnt uncommon for people with more advanced Alzheimers or dementia to put things in their mouth and try to swallow them.
  • Avoid objects with sharp edges or things that are heavy and could cause harm if they are dropped or thrown.
  • Because people with dementia often misplace things, it is best not to put anything overly valuable or precious to you in the box.

Best Friends Approach to Memory CareAt Elmcroft Senior Living, we use our proprietary Best Friends approach to caring for residents with dementia. You can see how it helps improve the quality of life for older adults who call one of our communities home by scheduling your personal tour today!

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What To Use For A Memory Box

Many containers could be used for a memory box. Some people might use whatever is lying around, but the more creatively-minded person could purpose build or decorate a box for an extra special touch.

Some of our favourite ideas for what to use as a memory box include:

  • A shoebox ;if youre on a tight budget or need a temporary solution, a shoebox can make a sturdy, spacious vessel for your memories. You could paint, draw on or otherwise decorate it to make it more personal. Just make sure it is stored in a safe, dry place, and any photos or papers are sealed within a plastic wallet to prevent accidental damage.
  • Biscuit tin ;biscuit tins are notoriously misleading in almost every British household because they are strong enough to use for years after their tasty treats have been demolished. They close tightly and will keep their contents protected. This is another option which can be decorated.
  • Locked box ;perfect for more sensitive memories such as personal letters; a locked box can be tucked away safely and out of sight. Just make sure you keep the key in a safe place.
  • An engraved box ;a lovely wooden box with an engraved name or message on the top makes a delightful choice for a commemorative memory box or as a gift for someone to start their own.

Whatever you choose, they should meet a few criteria:

  • Have enough space to hold everything.
  • Be sturdy enough not to get crushed.
  • Be labelled clearly and correctly.
  • Be watertight or kept away from places they will get damp .

Why Is It Unique

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Multisensory Not relying on a single sense, use music, tangible objects and photos all in one place. The multiple senses can work together to recall a story or memory.

Can be customised for the individual Whether its classical concertos, ska reggae or experimental jazz whatever your music tastes, background and culture Music Memory Box is open to all and not generalised on age range. Whatever brings the memories back fill your Music Memory Box with personal and meaningful music customised to the individual.

Simple to use with a tactile interface By playing music through objects when put in the centre of the box People living with dementia even at the later stages can use it unassisted, improving independence and choice of when to use it, and is accessible to play their music anytime.

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What To Include In A Memory Box

1. Photographs and newspaper cuttings

Looking at old pictures of friends and family can help to stir happy memories. If a person with dementia is no longer able to use photographs to trigger recognition, then a newspaper cutting featuring a significant or personal event might be better to include. The key theme here is to include something that the person can look at and either read or observe.

2. Body lotion, perfume or bar of soap

The smell of a favourite hand cream or fragrance are ideal items to include in a memory box. The sense of smell is closely linked with memory and is the strongest of the five senses.

3. Music

Whether it be a tape, vinyl or CD, music can be a big help in prompting memories. Play the music and ask the person with dementia if they can remember anything about where they first heard the music and what it means to them.

4. Favourite biscuits

The persons favourite chocolate bar or biscuit, for example, can be a nice reminder of a pastime treat. Taste is also one of our key senses and can help to stimulate different flavours and memories.

5. Mementos and souvenirs

Its important to include a variety of different sized objects and textures nothing too large or heavy, but items that offer a range of different sensations. It could be an object from a previous hobby, such as a cricket ball, or job.

Use The Box As A Topic Of Conversation

On top of the immense personal benefit that individuals gain, a memory box can act as an engaging topic of conversation. The memory box is often something that people are extremely proud to show to others, and explain in further detail. And friends are usually so intrigued by the experiences reflected through the box that they want to ask further questions about the individual’s life, sparking a really interesting and in-depth conversation that helps further with memory care.

Samantha Wells is Activities and Volunteers Coordinator at Sunrise of Virginia Water.

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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 ones lap or a small table.

If the memory box has compartments, make sure they suit the seniors 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:

Items To Include In A Memory Box

Memory Box for Dementia

The most important factor to consider when adding items to Memory Boxes for dementia use is to ensure that the object actually;stimulates memories for the person with dementia.

An old button that reminds the person of their school blazer & happy teenage years would be a good idea for the memory box, in comparison to an old photograph that no longer triggers recognition, as unfortunate as it may be.

Here are some examples of items that can be included:

  • A favourite book
  • An enjoyable smell, such as perfume
  • Souvenirs, tickets , memorabilia, etc
  • Items that reminds them of their most enjoyable job/vocation
  • Objects that have enjoyable/funny stories associated with them

An important part of a memory box can also be a short summary sheet, this should list all of the items included in the memory box, and the reasons why they were added.

A Summary Sheet can be especially useful in care homes, where there may not always be a family member available who knows the complete history behind all of the items.

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Memory Box Created By You For Your Family

Life isnt always fair, and many of us suffer from a terminal illness. And while we can be bitter about it, that, unfortunately, doesnt help. What would help a lot, and make a difference in the lives of your family members is to create your own memory box they could remember you by.

This could be therapeutic for you as you think of all the special memories you made with your family. As you go through your last stages of life, this activity will provide you closure, knowing your family will feel your love long after youre gone.

If you have children, this type of memory box is even more important, as their minds are not fully developed and they might have a harder time remembering. A book you read together, lotion or perfume you often wear, pictures of activities you did together, and even crafts they made for you, are all good candidates for this remembrance box. Add a; note with each item about the occasion. This will jog the childs memory even years after it happened.

Do you have something special for them? Maybe a piece of jewelry? Or a watch? That would be a very special memory of you that they could wear daily or on special occasions.

Other items you might add to your box could be:

Creating a memory box can be a very emotional experience. You may be overcome with sadness at times. If you need to, take a break. Come back after a day or two after you feel better.

This process will also bring satisfaction, as you reflect on your own memories.

How To Use A Memory Box

Similar to a time capsule, a memory box is designed to be used to help people remember the past. It can be used at anytime and almost anywhere. It can be used when a person may feel agitated or restless to help distract them from other worries, or used to aid with communication. Talk about the items and what memories the objects have for them.

Try to keep a memory box close by, ideally situated in a place that is easily accessible to the individual or group.

If you are using the memory box in a group of people you could take out one item at a time and go around the group asking them individually of a memory they have with the item, how the item was used or if they owned one.

Let us know your thoughts below if you have any hints and tips on making a great memory box

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Memory Box To Remember A Loved One You Lost

When you lose someone you love, you are heartbroken. You might feel like youll never recover. But you will. Youll go through the stages fo grief, and eventually will find joy again.

A memory box might help you remember a loved one. Its a safe container where you can contain your grief and open it up whenever you want to. Each time you view your box and explore its contents, you may feel more connected to your loved ones.

Creating a memory box to honor your lost loved one can be a very healing experience. Take plenty of time and care to make it special. This memory box is yours so use your own creativity to decorate it any way you choose.

How to make a memory box

Youll first need to find an empty box. It can be a craft box, shoebox, jewelry box, cigar box, or any other type of container that you wish to use. You may even buy a nice wooden box or get a blanket box at the crafts or discount store.

Once you have finished decorating your box, collect objects that remind you of your loved one. This may include:

  • prized possessions that he or she loved
  • a favored piece of clothing
  • scrapbook with special memories

Visit your memory box whenever you feel the need to reconnect with your lost one.

Much later in your bereavement, you may want to put away your box of special items that bring happy memories to life and store it on a shelf in a closet.

Find comfort by making a;tribute scrapbook or grief journal.

Making A Group Memory Box

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You can make memory boxes tailored towards individuals or a group of people. This could be in a day centres or care homes. If you make one for an individual they can be more personal items in the box. If you are making one for a group of people then use more general items from a particular era or event.

Make a memory box for a day centre or group of people

  • Think about the average age of the group before adding the items. Most people of a certain age will have a recollection of the items from a particular era or event.
  • Try not to tailor the items to any one individual.
  • Use photos showing the trends in clothing, old vehicles, sporting events, historical events such as royal weddings.
  • Sweet wrappers, old food tin labels and postcards are ideal.
  • Old money such as notes or coins.

A memory box tailored to an individual

  • Include photos of when they were younger, also photos of friends and other relatives. Try not to include any photo that could be upsetting especially if of a loved one that has passed away, ie. wife or husband.
  • Something that reminds them of the work they used to do, maybe a tape measure for a builder or joiner.
  • Old tickets from places they visited.
  • Small items the person may have collected from holidays or places they visited.
  • Books they like.
  • Sporting memorabilia.

If you are making a memory box for use in a day centre or care home you can pick up many cheap items to use from charity shops.

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Offer Opportunity To Learn Your Loved Ones Past

The act of creating a memory box is a fantastic opportunity to learn about your loved ones past. In determining what to include, youre sure to learn things you never knew about them past jobs, past adventures, hobbies, and other fun facts. And not only will creating a memory box serve as a bonding opportunity, itll help preserve your loved ones legacy and link them to later generations. Imagine a young child learning of his great-grandfathers military service or athletic exploits through tangible items like medals, trophies, or newspaper clippings? Its a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come.

Want to make your own memory box for a loved one living with Alzheimers disease or another form of memory loss? The Mayo Clinic offers;these tips;for how to create one.

For more information about dementia and the best care for your loved one, check out the;Artis Senior Living blog.

What Are The Five Things I Would Put In My Memory Box


I was given a fuzzy-felt game for my fourth birthday. I will always remember my parents handing it to me. Because I had not asked for this toy, it was totally unexpected and I had never seen the game before. On reflection though, I think that what made the toy so special, was the fact that my parents had chosen this particular gift from all the games available, without me being involved, it was a complete surprise.

Peat burning

The smell of burning peat is something that reminds me of spending time in the summer with family in Ireland when I was a child. When I stepped off the boat in Dun Laoghaire, there was a smell which hit me, which I loved and I have only realised in recent years, that it was the scent of burning peat. I have tried to recreate that smell by buying peat briquettes from Ireland, and burning peat scented incense in a small ceramic Irish cottage, but it is not the same.

My Coo Ca Choo Alvin Stardust

The first record I bought as a teenager in 1974. When I listen to the song now, I struggle to understand why I liked this record so much. When I hear it though I can remember being a teenager, the school I attended, my best friend, the clothes I wore and the places I liked to go. It instantly transports me back in time.

A Birds Eccles cake

Baby blankets with silk edging

I do not remember liking the feel of the silk on my baby blanket but I do like hearing about it from others and that in itself is comforting.

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