Helping an Alzheimer’s patient remember: how to make a personal memory book

The memory holds our perception of who we are. It tells us where we’ve been, what we’ve done, who we’ve known and how we have viewed the world throughout our lifetime. The most disconcerting thing about memory for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is that what it knows today may be gone tomorrow as if it never existed.

Keeping memories alive with a photo memory book

As a friend or relative of an Alzheimer’s patient, you can spark your loved one’s memory with photos and stories of their life. You can build a digitally-created memory book from current family photos together with old pictures and clippings from family albums. You might even consider making several books, each covering one aspect of the person’s life. When someone visits your loved one, they can share the memories together, page by page.

  1. Childhood. Where were they born? Who were their parents and siblings? Where did they go to school? What did they like to do? Any pets?
  2. Early Adulthood. Where they lived. Whom did they marry? Who are their children? Where did they work? What kind of jobs did they hold? What did they like to do  — cook, bake, fish, hunt,woodworking, board games with the family? What were their favorite vacation spots? Did they have family pets?
  3. Later Adulthood. How long have they been married? What does their spouse do? Add details about their house, their neighborhood and friends. Make a section here for each adult child — including their name, occupation, age, name of spouse and names and ages of each grandchild. Add current pictures of each family’s activities, pets, sports,  school achievements, vacations.

Family Photo Book Samples.

Here are samples of how you might put a photo memory book together. It might be a smaller  softcover version like the one featuring children’s photos. Or you could create a hardcover book with bigger pages for displaying great photos from the past. Neither of these was created specifically as an Alzheimer’s memory book, but both offer great ideas for structuring the pages of yours.

References on Building an Alzheimer’s Memory Book

Here are several sources that will give you more tips on how to go about structuring the content of  your book.

Getting Started on a Memory Book

  • Start by getting out old photos –– dig into albums and old shoeboxes; check closets, under beds, the basement and attic.
  • Sort them into categories, as those suggested above.
  • Scan the photos into digital images. You can even scan newspaper clippings, school yearbooks or other items that may be meaningful to your loved one. Be sure to ask other family members to share any photos they may have tucked away.
  • Identify who is in each photo and where it was taken. Enlist the assistance of aunts, uncles and cousins to help you identify photos correctly.
  • Organize current family photos. Many of these are likely to be digital already. If not get them scanned. It might be a good idea to take new photos of each family member, including one beside the loved one with Alzheimer’s.
  • Upload your photos to This is a terrific photo sharing and digital photo processing site that offers unlimited storage of your photos in your own free account. You can begin work on your memory book, save it and go back to continue working on it as often as you like. It costs nothing until you actually order a photo book or other photo product. Plus — and this is a very cool feature — you can preview your book at any stage and e-mail it in a “turning page format” to anyone without cost to you. When you (or someone who has received your online photo book) is ready to order, you (or they) can do so. That’s the only time you’ll be asked for payment and shipping information.

Photo Memory Book vs. Photo Memory Day Planner

Photo Memory Book.

No matter what size, a photo book includes a minimum of 20 pages — filled with your photos, digital scans and text that you can add to each page. Choose hard cover or soft cover and a range of sizes from 6″x4″ to 12″x12″. You can plan on an average of 2-1/2 photos per page– about 50 photos per 20-page book. (Choose to manually arrange the photos or use the easy auto-fill feature.) You also have the option of adding additional pages to  your book.

The price for a 6″x4″ book is $6.95; softcover 8″x8″ and 9″x6″ books are $12.95. An 8″x12″ softcover book is just $19.95. Prices and choices go up from there. But basically, a custom and long-lasting photo memory book can be very inexpensive.

Photo Memory Day Planner.

A day planner might be another option to consider for your Alzheimer’s person. Experts also suggest that keeping daily notes or journaling might be helpful. With a photo day planner, you can fill the pages opposite each week with photos. Choose to use 13, 27 or 54 photos.

Custom messages each day of the year. Another terrific feature is that you can put custom messages on any or all days of the year. This is yet another way to “connect” to your loved one through a photo for the week and personalized daily messages for them to read. Plus they have the option of making notes themselves in the day planner.

Example: During the week a child’s birthday occurs, put a photo of the child along with daily messages about the child or even from the child. Put in a phone number to remind your loved one (if they are able) to call that child.

Day planners start at $28.95 for a 4.4″ x 6″ book with 13 photos. An 8″x11″ version with 13 photos is $37.95. At the high end, an 8″x11″ with 54 photos is $43.95. Custom photo day planners are a bit more costly than a photo book, but have significantly more opportunity for interaction for the patient. The books are durable and spiral bound for easy use.

Get Family Members Involved in the Memory Book Process.
Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and youngsters can all take a role in getting the photo memory book or photo memory day planner together. It keeps them connected to the loved one who may be drifting away. And it brings more memories and recollections of the good times into focus for inclusion in the book.

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