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Support & Insight for the Autumn of Life

10 Ways to Use the Power of Photos for Dementia Care

Photos and photo albums make for a fantastic activity. They easily reduce social isolation and depression, providing comfort to people with dementia.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, reminiscence is a way of reviewing past events that is usually a very positive and rewarding activity. Even if the person with dementia cannot participate verbally it can still give them pleasure to be involved in reflections on their past. It can also be a means of distraction if the person becomes upset. While reviewing past events can provide a sense of peace and happiness, it can also stir up painful and sad memories. It is important to be sensitive to the person’s reactions if this happens. If their distress seems overwhelming then it is better to use another form of distraction to reduce anxiety.

10 Photo Tips for Families Facing Alzheimer’s

Compiled by the Alzheimer’s Association® in partnership with Shutterfly, here are 10 ways you can help lift a person with dementia to reminisce:

  1. Place photos in chronological order. Photo books can be great tools for showing someone’s life history or story. Start your photo book at the beginning of the person’s life and lead up to the present day. Organize the book around key moments and concentrate on happy occasions to assist with engagement. Also, keep the design simple, with one or two pictures per page, so the photos are easy to focus on.
  2. Show relationships. To help spark recognition of family members, dedicate a section to each person. Choose photos that include the person with the family member from different life stages and place them in chronological order.
  3. Select meaningful moments. Be sure to include photos that reflect the person’s meaningful life moments and depict his/her favorite hobbies or activities, such as weddings, graduations and vacations.
  4. Make it an activity. Work with the individual as appropriate to create the book, and share memories and conversation as you put it together.
  5. Engage in conversation. Ask open-ended questions about the people or events in the photo. How were you feeling in that picture? Tell me about your brother. What are some of your favorite childhood stories? Tell me more about this picture. The answers are less important than the conversation and engagement.
  6. Share your own memories. As part of the conversation, share your memories and feelings when looking at the pictures. Answer some of the same questions you’re asking the person with Alzheimer’s.
  7. Connect, don’t correct. This is more about making a connection and sharing memories. Focus on connecting with the person, not correcting them.
  8. Revisit frequently. Take the time to frequently revisit memories using the photos. Do what works best for the individual. It may be daily or weekly, depending on the person.
  9. Mix it up. Don’t discuss the same set of photos week after week. To help keep it fresh and interesting, discuss various parts of the book with different people and events on a regular basis.
  10. Move at a comfortable pace. Follow cues from the individual to gage their interest level and determine h

This Is Your Life Book

Making a chronological history of the person with dementia can help with reminiscence and provides information for people who may interact with them. A This Is Your Life book is a visual diary. Similar to a family photo album, it can also include letters, postcards, certificates and other memorabilia.

A large photo album with plastic protective sheets over each page will last indefinitely and can withstand a lot of use. Each photo needs to be labelled to avoid putting the person with dementia on the spot with questions such as “Who is that?” It is best to limit the information on each page to one topic, and to have a maximum of two or three items on each page.

The following list may help in getting a book started:

  • Full name and preferred name
  • Place and date of birth
  • Photographs and name of mother, father, brothers and sisters
  • Photographs of partner and wedding day
  • Photographs, names and birthdays of children and grandchildren
  • Photographs of family friends, relatives and pets
  • Places lived in
  • Schooldays
  • Occupation and war service
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Favourite music
  • Holiday snapshots and postcards
  • Letter, certificate, diagram of family tree and short stories about specific incidents.

This book can provide a great deal of pleasure and pride for a person who may be feeling increasingly bewildered in the present.


  • Alzheimer’s Australia
  • Shutterfly, Inc. is the leading manufacturer and digital retailer of high-quality personalized products and services offered through a family of lifestyle brands. Founded in 1999, the Shutterfly, Inc. family of brands includes Shutterfly, where your photos come to life in photo books, cards and gifts; Tiny Prints premium cards and stationery for all life’s occasions; Wedding Paper Divas, wedding invitations and stationery for every step of the planning process; MyPublisher, one of the pioneers in the photo book industry and creator of easy-to-use photo book-making software; ThisLife, a private, cloud-based solution that makes it easy for consumers to find, share and enjoy their photos and videos, all in one place; and BorrowLenses, the premier online marketplace for photographic and video equipment rentals. For more information about Shutterfly, Inc. (NASDAQ:SFLY), visit
  • The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit
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August 20, 2015 1:45 pm

Please add a pin for Pinterest! I want to save and share these amazing articles!

August 20, 2015 3:28 pm

I made my brother a Picture Quilt. With all of our family, his kids, and some of him. Under each pic I embroidered names of the people. In one block I embroidered his name, his birthday, our parents names, all of his siblings names, his children, and then I wrote in big letters, "You are loved"

August 21, 2015 4:55 pm

This is what I used photography for, and paid NO attention to the past. If these people were so important…where the hell were they? Either dead or ignoring her, abandonment… I used photography some from past but mostly I used photography to show CURRENT relationships. I bought a good camera, a great photo printer, and when necessary, used the drug store specials for special schemes.

Here is the sort of thing I did…I would set up the next door neighbors about this scheme, and we'd think of a project. So, they got a new fountain using beach rocks…we decided we would find a rock at our house to give to them,and make a big deal of it. Mom and I would wheel next door, and they would demonstrate the fountain. I had mom give them a rock and they made a big deal of placing the rock. I am taking photos of all this, every smile, etc. So that was a great visit.

I that afternoon go and get photos printed of this…and then of course we have to show them…this also prearranged. I wheel her over and we give them these lovely photos and they make a big deal over them (they were great photos, I must admit). So I take photos of this meeting, too, and so forth…

In my situation, I did not waste time and my effort to "animate" those who had abandoned her. There were a few who kept involved, so I kept them alive between times, remind her of gifts they sent her, etc.

Ellen Belk
Ellen Belk
September 14, 2015 4:24 pm

Have you heard of Memory Magz? A fabulous tool that supports remeniscent conversation. They even include a conversation starter tool – to get things going. Vivid, full page pictures for those with Dementia.

B. Berger

B. Berger

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chaffe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. With a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia appearing on the internet every 7 minutes, the site’s focus on the best information has been a help to many over the past 15 years. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor


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