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How Photos Can Help Dementia Sufferers Stimulate Memories

We all like to think about happy or momentous moments from our past. They form part of our identity. Art and photography often act as catalysts to stimulate memories of the times we miss. And this can be especially important for older people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The reality of dementia

Reminiscing is a natural part of human thinking. When we reminisce with other people, we strengthen bonds and improve our emotional wellbeing. It’s nice to think about happy moments from the past, particularly those shared with loved ones.

But sadly, for people with a progressive brain disease, being able to recall past events can be frustratingly difficult. Depression and anxiety commonly result from a disconnect with identity and a feeling of isolation. It’s heartbreaking for family and difficult for long-term caregivers.

How reminiscing is used as therapy

However, there are strategies to delay and manage the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One of these strategies is the stimulation of memories. People with dementia are often better at recalling memories from many years ago than they are from the more recent past. Active reminiscence, therefore, draws on this strength.

As well as conversational tactics, visual aids play an essential role in mental stimulation. Image association can uncover forgotten memories of happier times, especially when associated with a much-loved location or favourite type of setting.

How photos help with memory stimulation

Photography not only keeps long-term memories fresh but can also act as an anchor to the present moment and a sufferer’s family. Images of loved ones, hobbies, and favourite places can potentially remind the person living with dementia of each person’s role and identity.

These reminders are where artistic wall prints can help. Familiar scenes and images of favourite places, whether from the present or the past, make soothing decorative additions to any room in the home.

Such art prints can nicely complement other image-based therapy applications within a particular space, such as photo albums, jigsaws, journals, and art therapy exercises.

Images for repetitive memories

A person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will often return to the same memories over and over again. When these memories are positive and bring about comfort and happiness, it can be a good idea to include visual reminders of these particular recollections.

Choosing the right art prints for a person with dementia requires sensitivity and an understanding of the person’s past experiences, background, and present reactions. A beautiful reminder for one person might be an unpleasant catalyst for another.

Examples of ideal photo subjects

So what are some ideal photography subjects for people with dementia? 

Let’s have a look at a few possibilities.

Scenes from youth

Long-term memories in patients with brain disease are often easier to access than more recent ones. Visual reminders of their younger years can bring about positive memories, and this can be achieved using scenes they will recognise—for example, a particular beach, park, city, or landmark.

An autumn sunrise over Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire.
An autumn sunrise over Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire.

Old hobbies and interests

Hobbies and interests, whether from yesteryear or today, can also provide fantastic subjects for wall art. An avid botanist might benefit emotionally from botanical-themed photographic prints. Someone who was an enthusiastic horse rider in her youth might find comfort looking at images of beautiful wild horses.

Three pink flowers against a black background.
Three pink flowers against a black background.
Two affectionate brown horses nudging one another in a green field.

Favourite holiday spots

Everyone has memories of happy summer holidays, be it on the beach with their family as a child or while travelling abroad with their love. These happy moments might be remembered through images depicting certain scenes such as a warm sunny beach or a particular foreign tourist destination (such as London, New York, Paris, or Venice).

A scene from Venice of the Grand Canal with a gondola in the foreground – Venice.

Stimulating memories and cultivating wellbeing

People with dementia and related illnesses can still live engaged and meaningful lives. With the right therapy and care, a sense of identity can be maintained and overall wellbeing positively influenced.

Beautiful wall prints, while not a therapy in themselves, can nevertheless stimulate memories and provide a little extra sense of wellbeing and calmness. This psychological benefit is so essential in a world that will often seem confusing and frightening.

Click here to view a selection of artistic wall prints.

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