Family Scrapbook IdeasFamily Scrapbook Ideas

Activities that stir the memories of a loved one, especially if he or she is living in a nursing home, can be invaluable in improving quality of life, maintaining memories for as long as possible, or even breaking through the disconnectedness of dementia. Sharing memories with younger generations can also be good for all involved, making bonds between family members that allow for teaching moments and new memories spent together reminiscing. An easy and creative way to spark these conversations and memories is by creating a scrapbook for a senior loved one, whether you create one at home and gift it to them, or work on it together during visits to the care facility.

1. Dig up some great old photos.

Include photos from phases of your loved one’s life, arranged in chronological order. Pictures from their childhood with siblings or parents, school or church activities, sporting events – all can be great conversation-starters for your loved one. When you bring the book to the facility, brainstorm questions that might go along with the photos. What activities did he or she enjoy most with siblings? What memories do they have of family gatherings or special meals? What was his or her favorite time of the year for celebrations?

2. Come prepared.

If you’re working together, bring easy-to-use supplies and set up an accessible station. If your loved one is wheelchair-bound, be sure to set your workstation up where they can easily reach tools and photos. Make copies of the photos you’re wanting to use so that you still have the originals stored safely at home, especially when using old family photos in delicate condition. Be sure to bring scrapbooking pages, decorative paper and stickers, glue sticks, and scissors. If your loved one struggles with motor skills, consider cutting the photos and shapes out ahead of time so that they can focus on placing the photos, rather than being frustrated trying to use the scissors.

3. Take your time and be aware.

Don’t rush yourself, but also be sensitive to your loved one’s emotional state. Let them know from the start that looking at and/or building the scrapbook can last over multiple visits, and be aware if they are becoming tired or agitated. Spend time discussing the photos, letting them linger over their favorites, sharing memories from the past. 

4. Bring them up to speed.

Include photos from present day events and family members, but don’t be hurt if your loved one has stronger memories regarding their pasts. Seniors with dementia may especially become confused, thinking photos of their grandchildren are their own children or even siblings. Do not let it discourage you, but remember that the goal is to help your loved one reconnect – even momentarily to a happy memory. This can help relieve stress and increase a sense of calm for your loved one.

5. Make it a family affair.

Invite other family members to participate in the scrapbook, by either sending you pages to add (be sure to specify size and specs of the scrapbook so the additional pages fit), or by bringing their own photos to the care facility during an upcoming visit. If your loved one is up to it, consider a scrapbooking party with several family members working together on the scrapbook, sharing laughter and enjoying your loved one’s favorite memories.

6. Keep it handy.

Be sure to leave the scrapbook in an accessible place so your loved one can look through it at their leisure and consider labeling the photos in larger, easily legible writing in case you’re not around to talk through the photos together. Use your visits to enjoy the book together as well, knowing that you might hear the same stories multiple times. Remember that one of the main goals of the scrapbook is to bring up good memories and happiness to your loved one, even if that means hearing the same story multiple times. These memories can aid in a sense of time and place, help fight confusion, and be a great stress-buster for your loved one.

While the photos you use in these scrapbooks are precious, consider the stories behind the photos even more of a treasure, along with the times you can spend with your loved one looking at them together. Don’t wait to get the full stories before it’s too late. Your loved one will most likely be happy to share his or her favorite memories, and your scrapbook can be the perfect icebreaker for conversations that are sure to teach and enlighten you as a caregiver a well.

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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