The Memory Center works closely with spouses and families to transition their loved ones into our memory care community. It is not always an easy transition but we are committed to providing the extra level of care to make it as smooth as possible.
One of the ways you as a caregiver can mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for this giant leap is by creating a memory box together with our soon-to-be or new resident.
Memory boxes are small enough to be held comfortably in the lap but large enough to store photos, special clippings, and other mementos with a powerful emotional tie to the resident. When they open the boxes, your loved one is instantly engaged in the remembering process, recalling the sights and smells that help make their lives feel meaningful and filled with love.
Heal & Help With a Dementia Memory Box
Creating a memory box is a special activity you can do as a family or in tandem with your loved one, producing a tangible “treasure box” that keeps them connected to their most precious memories and relationships.
In addition to soothing and supporting memory care residents, memory boxes also serve as a form of reminiscence therapy, providing opportunities for seniors to talk and share meaningful memories. Talking about happy memories from the past offers a sense of joy, which can help cope with stress, reduce boredom and depression, and make life seem a little sunnier.
Residents who have memory boxes cherish them and love to share their contents and associated stories with their friends and our employees. These boxes also offer a way to make their new space feel more like home.
It goes without saying that creating a memory box is cathartic for you as well. You’ll be able to laugh, cry, grieve, and express your full-spectrum of feelings while reliving the memories and feelings those sacred items conjure for you and your loved one.
Choose or Make the Right Box
This box is going to be well-used and a continuous source of comfort. However, it also needs to fit on a lap and be easy to store in the resident’s room. A sturdy shoe box can do the trick, as can small plastic totes with snap-on lids. If there is a woodworker in the family, a memory box is a beautiful project that they can pour their love into as they work.
Regardless of which type of box you choose, consider letting children, grandchildren, and other close family and friends decorate the exterior. This is a sweet way to bring the community into the transition process and adds an extra layer of memories and connections for your loved one.
If and when dementia progresses to the point your loved one can’t read, our staff is more than happy to read those sweet messages and signatures to them.
The box should meet your loved one’s current and projected dexterity. Simple boxes that easily open and close are preferable to boxes with locks or harder-to-manage opening mechanisms. We also see clients struggle to access items (or put away items) in boxes with compartments. Boxes with a single, spacious interior tend to work best.
Decide on the Contents
This is the most challenging part of the process as you’ll find there are way too many things you want to put in than the memory box – more than the box’s size allows! But there are some tried-and-true memory box treasures.
Not surprisingly, photos of family, friends and meaningful moments in their lives are at the top of the list. Because space is limited, try to find photos that encompass a special moment. Also, take advantage of group shots! That way, just two or three photos may be all that is required to inspire a wide range of memories, connections, and stories.
We also recommend putting in their favorite photo of themselves. This may become one of their favorite things to look at on a hard day because our staff can redirect their anxiety, sadness, or stress. We can say, “Look! That’s you! That’s who you are.” We can then reintroduce them to the calming contents.
Things that Represent Their Passions
We’ve seen all kinds of fun things in our residents’ memory boxes, including well-worn and filthy gardening gloves, an autographed baseball, a favorite dog’s collar, a cherished stirring spoon or potholder, etc. We’ve seen beautiful shells for clients who loved the ocean and pine cones for those who loved camping in forests.
Families have included newspaper clippings featuring their accomplishments and recipe cards, letters/postcards, or art from grandchildren. Whichever items you choose, they help your loved one remain in touch with their identity so be sure to select things that represent their passions.
Small Family Heirlooms
Choose a family heirloom connecting them to their roots and lineage. That said, make sure it isn’t so valuable that it would be devastating if the item were broken or lost. Examples include needlepoint samplers made by a mother or grandmother, an old magnifying glass or small, collectible pillbox, or a favorite broach or set of cufflinks.
Trip souvenirs are a perfect item to include. They mean the most to the one who purchased them, and they’re often fun-but-kitschy. Trip souvenirs will bring smiles all around and often connect residents with fellow, former world travelers, initiating conversations that forge new friendships.
Something Soft With a Familiar Smell
What did your spouse or parent keep in their own real-life keepsake box? Odds are there is some type of blanket, handkerchief, item of clothing, or something with a familiar smell. These are ideal items to add to their memory box.
Keep Safety in Mind
Finally, remember that the boxes should mainly, if not exclusively, focus on positive memories. In addition, contents need to be safe so leave out anything with sharp edges or that is too heavy and can drop on tender legs or toes.
Memory Boxes Are Treasures for Seniors With Dementia
Use this creative experience to pour your love and good wishes, and to process your feelings about the experience. Being a caregiver isn’t easy and you hold so much in the work you do day in and day out. Creating a memory box for your loved one can help you transition into this next phase, knowing they have everything they need to feel comfortable and safe in their new space.
The Memory Center can provide resources for caregivers as well. Learn more about caregiver burnout and how to identify the signs. We are here for you and your loved one.