Memory Books and Life Story Books for Dementia – Occupational Therapy

Memory & Life Story Books for Dementia

Introduction

In my mental health rotation at an outpatient behavioral health setting, one of the previous students created a nostalgia book for one of the social and leisure groups. It was a very creative book that contained photographs and pictures of pop culture, media, products, and historical events aimed for older adults. Although this nostalgia book was used for leisure group, it was an excellent example of how something so simple and low-tech can be used for occupational therapy interventions for other conditions.

Dementia

The number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 74 million in 2030 (Prince, 2015). The symptom of memory loss can have a large impact on an individual’s life and socialization. Forgetting how to complete even basic ADLs may require these individuals have constant supervision for safety. It likely leads to poor mental health including depression, anxiety. Socially, it may lead to social isolation. Memory books and Life Story books may help.

Types of Books

Memory Books and Life Story Books are a creative way for family members to collaborate with allied health professionals to participate and create a personalized project for an individual with dementia.

Nostalgia books are geared towards larger groups (such as group therapy) and are less personalized, e.g., do not contain personal photographs, but rather, media that is found in the public domain such as Google image searches.

Memory Books help to promote independence with a compensatory tool for the individual with dementia to function in their environment. This is more often made by speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, and staff — interdisciplinary.

Life Story Books are more straightforward and contain photographs and memories of the individual often in chronological order.

Making the Books

The books can consist of pages, writings, print-outs, or photographs placed inside a plastic sleeve inside a 3-ring binder. A scrapbook is another good option. If you are not very creative, many digital printing companies can even make a nice-looking book for you after you upload can customize the book online with websites such as Shutterfly or Vistaprint. Use bright photographs that are easy to see, large fonts for low vision, and do not make the pages too cluttered, confusing, or over-stimulating. Personalize the books if possible to the client.

let staff know about the books and where they are located.

What to Put in Memory Books

  • Safety pages and messages
  • Immediate environment reminders – e.g., room, house
  • Photographs or narratives of family members, staff members
  • Events and milestones
  • Pets and animals
  • Previous homes
  • Personality items
  • Religion and Cultural
  • Favorite foods and recipes
  • Holidays
  • Education
  • Awards and Achievements
  • Clubs or Groups
  • Work History
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Music, Movies, Theatre, Art
  • Reading
  • Travel and transportation

What to Put in Life Story Books

  • Photographs
  • Narratives
  • Life Achievements
  • Places traveled
  • Important Memories
  • Routines
  • Work history
  • Family members
  • Pets
  • Hobbies
  • Favorites – teams, movies, foods, etc.

Where to Put Them

Place books in an easily accessible location that easy to spot and retrieve. Avoid putting these books in hard-to-reach areas, e.g. high on shelves or hidden away. Let family members know where these books are located as well.

Include blank pages for future memories.

Alternative Options

If you are tech-savy or interested, making a digital version is another option such as using websites like Canva. You can then print this out, turn it into a book, or send a digital-version to a tablet.

Another creative option is creating a movie with photos (slideshow) or short video clips, even voice recordings of family members for the client and publishing it online such as a private Dropbox or Google Drive link. Remember to make it easy to use and accessible for older adults.

Sources

Prince, M., Wimo, A., Guerchet, M., Ali, G. C., Wu, Y. T. and Prina, A.M. (2015). The Global Impact of Dementia. An Analysis of Prevalence, Incidence, Cost and Trends. London: Alzheimer’s Disease International.

Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, culture, sociology, philosophy, and more.