3 Ways Dementia Patients Benefit from Photo Reminiscence

Older woman and girl views from behind with a photo book on their laps

I recently read an article about Josh Freitas, PhD. He and his colleagues published a research study on the therapeutic benefits of photo reminiscence therapy with residents in residential memory care settings. 

After the study, Freitas concluded:

… the power of engaging with personal photos, matched with a high-quality care curriculum and living environment, may improve the quality of life for those with dementia by stimulating the brain and fostering neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. This may improve quality of life and, sometimes, temporarily diminish dementia symptoms during therapeutic sessions.

As we know, looking at old family photos and talking about them is good for the psyche and overall wellbeing.

Last month, my 91-year-old mother-in-law was admitted to a senior care facility. She suffers from dementia, and although she had been aging in place, the family agreed it was time to put her in the care of well-qualified professionals. She has adapted to her new home well, much to our relief!

Creating photo albums had been a favorite pastime of hers. Dozens of albums filled her bookshelves and closets. As a photo organizer, I am familiar with the benefits of photo reminiscence therapy (pRT) for older adults, and my husband and I often pulled out the old family albums when we visited her at home.

Photographs can help you share the stories of your loved ones through storytelling. But with aging parents, it can be difficult to figure out how best to access and share their photo collection. Print photos need digitizing. And digital photos need specific viewing devices, plus some technical know-how. Some older adults may not be comfortable holding a heavy or large printed album.

However, there are solutions. Let’s explore 3 of my favorites photo reminiscence tools. 

Digital Photo Frames
Sharing digital photos is easier than ever with these devices. Seniors will certainly benefit from viewing digital picture frames as images can easily be uploaded and shared through an app, and the same will be displayed on the viewer. Plus, most frames have a straightforward user interface, which makes them simple for the elderly to navigate through the menus and modify settings. We like the Nixplay frame, but there are plenty of others available. 

Video Playbooks 
Video plays an integral role in a family’s visual legacy. They tell straightforward stories, capturing moments in time in ways no still photo ever can. But how best to view? Enter the video playbook. These book-size devices allow you to customize the cover as well as easily view and store videos and slideshows. Once old home movies are digitized, they can easily be uploaded (as can digital videos). Playbooks are sleek, lightweight and don’t require much more than opening the cover to enjoy the content. 

Family Websites 
If your aged loved one is tech-savvy and has a computer or smartphone, they can enjoy an album of digital photographs in the cloud.  They can simply click on a link or app to view and share their memories. This is a great way to share family photos with many different family members simultaneously. 

What’s going to happen to the aforementioned albums that my mother-in-law spent a lifetime creating? In between my client work, I plan to curate, archive and scan the best photos of the collection to share with her and the family. While digital photo frames are a great viewing choice for her, I am partial to digital print photo albums. I can see the collection becoming a multi-volume series: beautifully bound and printed legacy books to pass on to the next generation.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of the businesses I endorse, I just think they offer great products!