Supporting Loved ones living and coping with Dementia | Care in Kent

If you are lucky enough to have elderly loved ones in your life, you’ve probably spent a considerable length of time talking to them about the past. Older relatives are our strongest connection to our history, and their stories and memories can be a source of delight and intrigue, revealing things about a yesterday we aren’t able to experience for ourselves. But for those who have loved ones that are living with dementia, exploring and talking about the past can take on a whole new importance, as research shows that by bringing long-term memories to the fore, it can help trigger short-term memories – the loss of which is one of the hallmarks of early stage Alzheimer’s.

Creating a memory box for a loved one who is living with dementia can be useful, stimulating reminiscence, helping an older person to feel more comfortable and safe, as well as engaging their interest and triggering conversation.

When thinking of what to include in a memory box, focus on the five senses of sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell and think of items that will trigger a range of different and strong emotions.

For example:


Smell is the strongest of the five senses and is closely linked with memory (one whiff of play doh and we’re all five years old again, right?), so a great item to include in a memory box for a loved one with dementia is a favourite fragrance. How about a perfume or aftershave worn in their youth, or a hand cream their mother used, for example. Smells can immediately trigger a detailed memory or intense emotion, and so fragrance can play an important part in a memory box. It is worth noting though, that smell is often one of the first senses to be impacted by Alzheimer’s.


Music has a huge role when it comes to memory, so be sure to include a tape/CD/vinyl in your loved one’s memory box with music from their past – perhaps a wedding song or songs from a band they saw in their youth. Ask them if they remember when they first heard the song and what it means to them. Music can evoke a strong response in most people, and is a great conversation starter.


Old pictures of friends and family are an absolute must for a memory box for those living with dementia, and looking at them can stir happy memories. If your loved one isn’t able to use photographs to trigger recognition, you could try adding newspaper cuttings of significant or personal events in the memory box instead. The important thing is to include something that can be read or observed, such as a scrapbook, letters or a diary.


Much like smell, certain tastes and flavours can transport us back in time, and can be a key way to stimulate memories. You can include a loved one’s favourite biscuits/chocolate bar as a reminder of pastime treats…your loved one might be reminded of the shop where they used to buy it from when they were young, which can in turn trigger memories of other places they used to go to, and things they used to enjoy.


In your loved one’s memory box, try to include objects in a variety of sizes and textures to offer a range of sensations. Think of your loved one’s hobbies or jobs they might have had and base the sense of ‘touch’ around them; perhaps some wool if they used to knit or crochet, a golf ball if they used to enjoy a round on a Sunday, for example. Make sure you don’t include anything too big or heavy, you want your loved one to be able to fully handle the object, to be able to turn it over in their hands and explore it. You might be amazed at what memories and stories could be unlocked.

The possibilities of what you include in a memory box for your loved one are endless, and you don’t have to make just the one…why not create multiple boxes for different themes; one holding memories of the kids, one relating to a favourite hobby, for example. Spend time with your loved one as they go through the box and encourage them to share their feelings and memories. It could be that an item intended to stir a certain memory brings on another, and then another, inspiring new thoughts and conversation, and leaving you with new memories of your loved one to cherish forever.

How can Care in Kent help?

If you or your loved one need some extra support, contact our friendly team today who can arrange help for end of life care, home care, and more. To get in touch, click here or call us on 01233 619 530.