Making A Memory Scrapbook

The majority of the 4.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease live at home, where family and friends provide most of their care.  Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is both emotionally and physically challenging.  Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that not only affects memory, but gradually destroys a person’s ability to learn and carry out daily activities.  As memory loss and other symptoms worsen, the amount of time and energy caregivers and families spend taking care of their loved one increases.

A few weeks ago, I did an entire episode around activities caregivers can do with their loved one with Alzheimer’s.  Here’s one more activity that is exceptional, in my opinion.  As someone that has completed her journey as a caregiver, this one is particularly of interest to me.  Perhaps it’s because I have the advantage of looking back at all the time I had with my mom.  I still think about how I could have done things differently.  Making a memory scrapbook is one activity I wish we did.

Making a memory scrapbook with your loved one is the activity. 

The Memories to Treasure program is no longer available online, which is most unfortunate.  It provided people who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s tips on care giving and information about the disease, while helping them connect with their loved one through the art of scrapbooking.  Not to worry, though.  I have found a new resource for you which I will share with you shortly!

Alzheimer’s caregivers have unique needs

Alzheimer's Caregiver Memory Scrapbooking Activity

Memories to Treasure offered resources to help facilitate interaction with loved ones,” says Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving. “Engaging in meaningful activities, such as scrapbooking, allows time spent together to be more positive and can benefit everyone involved.”

While people with mild Alzheimer’s disease often experience problems with short-term memory, they may recall memories from the distant past. Looking at old photographs and keepsakes may lead to conversations about people and past events, and can be enjoyable for everyone involved.

“Activities, such as scrapbooking, can be beneficial for families facing Alzheimer’s disease,”

says Benjamin Seltzer, M.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Disease & Memory Disorders Center, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans. “Engaging in meaningful activities with a loved one is only one facet of caregiving; however, it is also important to know that there are treatments available that can help slow symptoms of the disease.”

Sadly, Memories to Treasure can no longer be accessed online.  However, I did find a wonderful resource about making a memory scrapbook.  You’ll find a link to it on today’s podcast blog post, so be sure to check it out.  Caregivers will also find instructions to create a memory scrapbook with a loved one facing Alzheimer’s disease.

Think about all the wonderful treasures your loved one already has that can be added to the scrapbook. They are likely to have cards, notes, pictures, dried flowers from the garden, and other pieces of memorabilia that they refuse to throw away.  My mom didn’t want to ever throw anything away.  And on her daily walks around the yard, she came back inside with pockets full of new treasures she found around the yard.

Scrapbooking can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

My mom started me with scrapbooking when I was a kid.  She’d have me cut out pictures from magazines that I liked and paste them into my scrapbook.  Things like yarn of different colors, old buttons and other items were also added.  We even drew some pictures with crayons.  Of course, scrapbooking wasn’t big business back then like it is today.  But the concept is pretty much the same.  Fill a scrapbook with things that you like, and in this case, things that your loved one likes.  

Use what you have around the house.  Encourage your loved one to add their treasures to the memory scrapbook.  By focusing on adding just one page for each “session”, your loved one won’t get caught up in trying to re-do former pages (something my mom would have done), or be distracted by them.  Plan a special outing with your loved one to your local craft supply store.  There you’ll be able to pick up a scrapbook and perhaps a few extras to add to some of the pages.  The outing alone will make your loved one happy if they enjoy creative activities.  

A viable alternative is to shop online for your memory scrapbook supplies.  An obvious choice is because they are the largest online retailer.  They will have enough to get you started on your new memory scrapbooking activity.

Set aside a time each week for your memory scrapbook activity. 

Choose a time that works best for both of you.  If your loved one is most lucid in the morning, then set aside a time in the morning on a particular day (such as Saturday) for this activity.  Occasionally, they may not be up to it on that particular day.  That’s okay.  You can try a little later that same day, or chose a different day for the activity. 

Have some of their favorite music playing softly in the background while you’re making the memory scrapbook page with them.  It can really help trigger some memories of when that music was a part of their world.  You never know when those memories will lead to new ideas for the page you’re creating with them.

Creating a memory scrapbook with your loved one is an opportunity for them to tell you their stories.  Yes, you probably know most of those stories, but they don’t know you know them.  So encourage them to tell them again.  Ask questions about details about the stories, to get their brain really humming along. 

For example, I knew, if I served fish for dinner, it was like a trigger for mom.  She would tell all the fishing stories she had as a young girl with her grandfather.  It was predictable, and yes, a little tiresome at times.  But she loved to tell those stories.  Another good scrapbooking page we could have created was one about fishing.  Interestingly enough, mom didn’t fish at all as an adult.  She did a lot of it though when she was a child.  I think it was among her most treasured memories with her grandfather.

Once your memory scrapbook time is over, simply put all the supplies into a box and remove the box from the room.  I would recommend putting the memory scrapbook in that box, as well.  I’m just thinking how my mom would do things if I left it out for her to look at, and well, she would probably take it all apart or hide it completely, as she often did with her other things.  So I would hide it away until the next scrapbooking time.  People with Alzheimer’s don’t usually take care of their things like they did when they were younger.  My mom started coloring her figurines with crayons.  Something she would never have done (or even thought to do) before.

I wish I knew about this memory scrapbooking activity when my mom was still with me.  She loved crafts, and this would have been an enjoyable process for her and for me.  Mom was an artist, too, so I could have encouraged her to do some drawings for the memory scrapbook, which she would have been happy to do.  The memories we could have created together with this activity would have been priceless. 

It would also be interesting to see how the pages change over time.  What I mean is, as the disease worsens, I am guessing the pages would reflect that to some extent.  My mom slowly lost her ability to draw like she used to.  In the last few years of her life, she spent a lot of time coloring in coloring books.  She enjoyed that activity, but I could see the quality of her coloring diminished over time.

Now, whether you think you’re a creative person or not, studies have shown that those who engage in creative activities are happier because of it.  So get your creative juices flowing!

I’ve said this before, but it bears saying again.

The activities you do with your loved one on a regular basis create amazing happy memories for you to cherish long after they are gone.  So, making a memory book together is as much for you as it is for them.  This memory book would have been a treasured keepsake to remind me of the time spent with my mom.  I could flip through the memory scrapbook and remember the time we spent together creating each page.  Don’t let time slip away or put off this activity because if you do, it is one you’ll likely regret.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy, and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect.  The time spent doing something special together is what counts the most – for them and especially for you. 


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