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Memory Boxes Pt. 2: A Guide to Memory Boxes in Art Therapy for Loved Ones with Dementia

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Family history is often shared through memories, which are often thought to be the threads that weave our stories together. For those navigating the challenging journey of supporting a loved one with dementia, preserving and celebrating memories becomes a poignant and essential task. As discussed in our previous blog, the creation and utilization of memory boxes as an art therapeutic process for individuals living with dementia plays a  significant role in emotional containment.  In this blog post, we will provide practical insights into how families can embark on this artistic endeavor with their loved ones. 

Family members hold a pivotal role in the creation of a memory box for a loved one grappling with dementia. Their intimate knowledge of the individual's life history, preferences, and significant milestones allows for a more personalized and meaningful assembly of items within the memory box. By actively engaging in this process, family members contribute to the therapeutic potential of the memory box, ensuring that it becomes a powerful tool for reminiscence and recollection that can be tailored to the unique experiences and memories of their loved one.

The involvement of family members is not merely practical but also emotionally significant. The act of gathering and curating items for the memory box becomes a shared journey down memory lane, fostering connection and understanding between family members and the individual with dementia. It provides an opportunity for family members to reminisce together, sharing stories and anecdotes that contribute to the richness of the memory box. In this collaborative effort, family members become integral to the preservation and celebration of the individual's life story, fostering a sense of togetherness and shared history that transcends the challenges posed by dementia.

Family Members and Memory Boxes

Additionally, family members can infuse the memory box with a deeper layer of emotional resonance by incorporating items that hold familial significance. Photographs capturing family gatherings, letters from loved ones, or even small heirlooms can evoke a sense of belonging and familial love. This inclusion of family-centric items not only enhances the therapeutic impact of the memory box but also reinforces the individual's connection to their familial identity, instilling a sense of security and continuity.

Dementia and Memory Boxes

As dementia progresses, the collaborative creation of a memory box can serve as a poignant way for family members to actively participate in their loved one's emotional well-being. It becomes a tangible expression of love, care, and commitment, providing a source of comfort and reassurance in the face of cognitive challenges. Through this shared endeavor, family members contribute not only to the creation of a memory box but also to the ongoing emotional support and enrichment of the individual's daily life, fostering a sense of connection that transcends the boundaries imposed by dementia.

Here are some steps family members can take in creating a memory box for a loved one living with dementia:

  1. Gather Personal Items: Collect items that hold personal significance to the individual, such as photographs, letters, mementos, or small objects associated with positive memories.

  2. Include Multi-Sensory Elements: Incorporate items that engage multiple senses, such as textured fabrics, scented items, or audio recordings. This can enhance the sensory experience and make the memories more vivid.

  3. Organize Thoughtfully: Arrange the items in a way that makes sense to the individual, considering their personal history and preferences. Grouping items by themes or periods of life can help create a coherent narrative.

  4. Label and Explain: Provide labels or notes for each item, offering brief explanations or stories associated with them. This helps the individual understand the significance of each item and reinforces the connection to their memories.

  5. Regularly Update the Box: As memories evolve, update the memory box with new items or adjust existing ones to reflect the individual's changing preferences and experiences.

In terms of the types of memories to incorporate, focus on positive and emotionally comforting experiences. Consider including items related to family, friendships, achievements, and significant life events. The intentional choice of positive memories aligns with the therapeutic goals of reducing emotional dysregulation often experienced by those with dementia. It fosters a calming effect, creating a haven of reassurance and familiarity that can be accessed whenever the individual feels disoriented or distressed. In this way, the carefully selected positive memories contribute not only to the contents of the memory box but also to the overall emotional well-being of individuals navigating the complexities of dementia.

In summary, emotional containment for individuals living with dementia involves establishing a supportive and understanding environment that addresses their emotional needs. This encompasses creating a sense of physical and emotional security, validating their emotions through empathetic communication, and utilizing therapeutic interventions like memory boxes to evoke positive memories and promote emotional well-being. By implementing these strategies, caregivers and family members can enhance the quality of life for individuals with dementia, offering a more stable and emotionally supportive experience amidst the challenges posed by the condition.

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memory boxes and dementia


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