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Ingleside at Rock Creek Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Creating a memory box and other Alzheimer’s activities to share with a loved one

Losing the ability to communicate with words can be one of the most difficult experiences for those living with Alzheimer’s.

Not being able to express their feelings can understandably be frustrating and may lead to anger, anxiety and isolation.

But for family members and friends, it’s important not to avoid spending time with your loved one. Although conversations can become more difficult or even impossible as the disease progresses, there are ways you can continue to communicate.

If your loved one is struggling with words, sharing activities together can be a great solution to help you connect and engage with each other.

Advantages of sharing activities when visiting someone with Alzheimer’s

  • Encourages your loved one to feel engaged

  • Can take the pressure off of having conversations when words are difficult

  • May help to more naturally start a conversation

  • May help trigger forgotten memories for both your loved one and yourself

  • Opportunity to create happy or meaningful experiences

  • Can encourage use of different senses, such as touch or smell

Activity ideas to share

If you’re looking for suggestions, here are three you may want to try:

1. Creating a memory box together

A memory box is not only a fun activity, but it may help loved ones link up once again with memories of their family, past celebrations or other snapshots of their lives.

How-to make a memory box

Start with a shoe box or small plastic storage box. You want it to be big enough to store small mementos but easy for the individual to lift and open. When choosing items, make sure they reflect what the individual was interested in or represents a meaningful time.

It’s usually better to keep it simple. You may want to create more than one memory box, each with a dedicated theme, such as childhood, school days or family life.

When possible, choose items of different shapes and textures, which can also help spark memories.

Don’t include an original item if it is irreplaceable. Use a copy or another representative instead.

Label each item and include a descriptive sentence about each, if that would be helpful.

Suggested items you may want to include:

  • Baby toy

  • Baseball cards

  • Keychain

  • Letter

  • Child or grandchild’s artwork

  • Photos of family and friends

  • Vacation or special event photos

  • Miniature representations of a favorite hobby or pastime

2. Creating a collage

Cutting out copies of photos of family members or events, images and pictures from magazines, or using items that speak to the individual’s interests is a great way to trigger past memories. 

This activity may invoke long ago thoughts of career roles, fun days spent at the beach or times when they were raising children. Whatever may be pleasurable and meaningful for your loved one should work well.

Depending on the materials you’ll be using, bring along a poster board, foam board or a scrapbook. You can either look at the magazines together to find the right images or if it would be less stressful, arrive with a stack of possibilities ready to go.

Consider bringing in pieces of cloth, ribbon or other tactile materials such as leaves or flower petals that they can handle and add to the collage. Work together to arrange the pattern and attach with glue. This makes for a lovely display in their rooms.

3. Travel the world…or their old neighborhood

One of the amazing benefits of technology is how easy it is to go almost anywhere in the world with your computer. Bring in your laptop and travel with Google Earth across the country or go sightseeing in Paris, London or Rome.

You can also zoom in to a street side view of their hometown or neighborhood. Depending on the area, you may even be able to virtually stand in front of their childhood home. 

Visit their old elementary or high school, the church where they were married or the lake where they caught their first fish. The options are almost endless and can trigger many of their memories from the past.

This is also a great way to see the sights that they may otherwise miss out on. Many museums and art galleries are set up for virtual tours. You may also pay a digital visit to a world-class zoo and watch the baby giraffes or polar bears.

Do’s and don’ts of sharing activities when your loved one has Alzheimer’s

  • Don’t overwhelm them with choices

  • Do pay attention to their reactions. If they’re uncomfortable, try a different activity

  • Do talk to them about their memories 

  • Don’t put them on the spot to remember a name or place

  • Do wrap it up if they begin to tire. You can come back another day

The benefits for family and friends 

Engaging those with Alzheimer’s can contribute greatly to their quality of life. But the advantages also extend to the visitor as well.

Adapting to the losses of Alzheimer’s is hard on family and friends. But if you’re a good listener and observer, you may find your interactions provide opportunities for you to gain a better understanding of your loved one.

While you may assume you know their history, sometimes memories that you were unaware of become unlocked. Pay attention to their reactions and listen to their stories. You may have the chance to get to know them in a way you hadn’t before.

Ingleside at Rock Creek Memory Support Assisted Living

We understand the challenges of having conversations as Alzheimer’s progresses. But we also are here to support your loved one and family to remain connected and engaged with each other.

Difficulty or no longer being able to speak can create a barrier between those living with dementia and the others in their lives. But sharing activities together can be the key to reopening the door.

We hope the above information and ideas can help you continue to communicate with your loved one, even if words are no longer possible.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and if the time comes when your loved one needs a higher level of care than you can provide, we hope you’ll consider Rock Creek Memory Support Assisted Living. 

Our specially trained and compassionate staff, therapies, programs and residences are all designed to provide our residents with the highest level of care, independence and dignity.

We are also a supportive resource and offer education to our families.

Call (202) 846-2651 if you have any questions or would like to  schedule a personalized tour today.

Ingleside at Rock Creek: Engaged Living




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