02/17/2015 01:01 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT

A Picture Can Be Worth More Than 1,000 Words

Senior Woman in Front of Family Photos
LWA via Getty Images
Senior Woman in Front of Family Photos

By: Megan Jones

Reminiscence therapy--using photos, old objects, even music, to spark conversation--is a great activity that improves well-being in those with dementia and Alzheimer's. When used in groups or with loved ones, it also curbs isolation by helping to start meaningful conversations.

Photographs are a particularly good resource to kickstart reminiscence about personal memories, or broader recollections of an era in general.

For those looking to try this therapy, which studies report improves mood and cognitive ability, here are some products that can be used for photography-based reminiscence at home:

Talking Photo Albums:

Talking photo albums use pre-recorded messages by family members or friends to enhance the memories sparked by photos. Messages can be used to remind your loved ones of the year the photo was taken, for example, or of the names of people or places.

There are multiple talking photo albums available online. Most brands allow for short messages--about 10 to 20 seconds long--and hold about 20 photos.

Life History Books:

Compiling a chronological book of memories with your loved ones can help them access fond long-term memories, emphasizing what they can remember rather than what they can't. Once finished, the books can also be comforting to those with dementia, or act as keepsakes for younger generations.

Make sure to include lots of photos--which are easier for the person with dementia to see than small print. Surrounding photos by brightly coloured frames is also helpful for those with dementia who have trouble focusing their vision, as the brightness draws the eye in.

While life history books can be made using a standard scrapbook, those looking for more guidance can purchase books like Conversations With My Mother, which provide prompts for users to fill in, and spaces for photos.

Cookbook: Recipes For Reminiscence

While this cookbook isn't specifically photo-based, it does include pictures of old food, kitchens and cooking utensils to help connect loved ones to memories of childhood dishes and mealtimes.

Each chapter of the book's 52 chapters includes recipes from across the decades, which are paired with quizzes, pictures, and reminiscence activities like prompts for conversations. Recipes For Reminiscence covers everything from wartime "making do" snacks to the food fads of later decades. It can be used one-on-one or in a group setting.

Reminiscence Apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod:

For on-the-go, interactive reminiscence therapy, caregivers can download one of a number of apps designed to use photos, music and video to help those with dementia and Alzheimer's remember proud accomplishments and happy memories.

Apps like iReminiscence allow family members to log-in remotely and leave their loved ones personalized audio and video clips, as well as old photos. iReminiscence also enables users with Alzheimer's and dementia to browse through a bank of photos from different eras and save them for later. The app encourages users to reminisce on their own by providing stimulating questions and prompts.

This story was originally published on, a website for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia. For more tips, answer and support, visit the site here.


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