‘Grandma Remembers’

Mementos Help Preserve Memories

Life is like a tapestry, woven from memories of people and events. Your individual tapestry reminds you of who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Sadly, age related illnesses such as dementia gradually steals the memories that make up a person’s tapestry. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, for instance, you can help by creating a tangible repository of memories for your loved one.

“Caregivers become the memory for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease,” says Glenn Smith, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Mayo Clinic. “By gathering memories, you can bring important events and experiences from your loved one’s past into the present. You’re the link to his or her life history.”

You may want to start by reminiscing with your loved one about his or her family history, traditions and celebrations. Often, childhood games, homes and pets are good opening topics — especially as the dementia progresses and your loved one has trouble remembering recent events. You might also talk about favourite sports, books, music and hobbies, as well as cultural and historical events.

Depending on the status of your loved one’s memory, you may also want to include neighbours, co-workers, old friends and other family members.

“By creating a life story, you affirm for your loved one all the positive things he or she has done in life and can still do,” Dr. Smith says. “Even after your loved one’s memories start to fade, creating a life story shows that you value and respect his or her legacy. It also reminds you who your loved one was before Alzheimer’s disease.”