Casual Fridays: Shining light on Alzheimer’s and Dementia – “Memory Books”

Intimate stories about dementia

Casual Fridays are a series of real stories about people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are positive, slightly sad but enlightening. I want to show that you can still have intimate personal connections with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Additionally, I hope that readers can relate them to their own experiences. While some of these stories may be funny my intent is not to make fun of people with Alzheimer’s. I intend to change the way that people perceive the disease by showing some positive aspects to aid in accepting Alzheimer’s for what it is.

It has been incredibly important for me to understand my personal relationship with Alzheimer’s. My hope is that these stories can help those additionally affected by Alzheimer’s disease come to terms with how it effects their lives.

A colleague of mine worked in the eldercare industry for seventeen years. He worked in nursing homes and residential communities as a Nursing Assistant, an Activity Coordinator, and a Life Enrichment Director. He currently works with a non-profit organization that assists people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. He told me these stories and shares my views on how important they are. He asked me to share them with you. I will post a new story every Friday.

-Carlos Barrios, Founder of Endear for Alzheimer’s


“Memory Books”

Helping dementia memory

I worked in a residential care facility with people who had Alzheimer’s disease. I could see first- hand the positive effects of Reminiscence Therapy and Memory Books. With Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early and mid-stages, the short-term memory is more affected by the disease, and the long-term memory can often be remarkably intact. Someone might remember having a paper route as a boy in the 1930’s, but doesn’t remember what he had for breakfast.

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I can remember a resident named Georgia. She had a lot of challenges finding her room, remembering to come to meals and activities, but she would tell you daily that she was born in Louisiana and lived in Virginia and worked for US Airways. I called her daughter one day, and she brought some photos of Georgia as a girl in Louisiana, a student in Virginia, and several photos of her in her flight attendant’s uniform, as well as pictures of her in a choir, and photos of her with family and friends. I went to a craft store and purchased a photo album with the plastic, peel-back pages. For the next couple of weeks, Georgia and I would sit together and go through the photos, but them in order, make labels for who the people and places were. I also went to the computer to print out pictures of Shrievport, her hometown. I printed pictures of Roanoke, Virginia, where she lived for many years, and also printed pictures of planes and flight attendants from the US Airways website. Georgia and I had a great time putting all these things together in the photo album, so the process itself was very therapeutic for her. And after we were done, we had a lovely product that came in very handy, especially when Georgia was sundowning in the afternoons. When she was agitated or depressed, I would go into her room and get her photo album and we would go through it together. More often than not, this would calm her and get her focused on something positive. I also trained the caregiving staff to use the photo album when Georgia was agitated rather than having the nurse immediately give her a calming medication.

Creating memory books or photo albums can be a fun and collaborative process, but it can also be very useful in times of stress. And I found that the more I knew about our residents and their past, the more I respected and cared for them.

Catch up on passed episodes of Casual Fridays. Here are some you may have missed:
“Coffee Break”
“Elvis’ 65th Birthday”
“The Silver Key Club”
“Laughing and Singing”
“The Task Master”
“Our 3 Floors of Memory”
“Need to Get Back to Clay City, Iowa”
“Toilet Talk Time”
“Fleas and a Feather Float Together”
“Once a Politician, Always a Politician
“Positive Post-It Notes”
“88 Keys of Past Memories”
“Fathers of Daughters”
“Distinguishable Gentlemen”

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