What to include in a memory book?

One question that I hear a lot about from people who want to make memory books for dementia care is – how do you decide what to include?
Honestly, it’s usually more about what to cut. Most people have amazing collections that could fill many books. The key is to just pick a few small stories to share. You can always do another book. Because brain and eye fatigue is so much of an issue with this population, we need to keep the content VERY limited. Blurry photos are worse with blurry eyesight. Dark images can also be hard to read. Little things like this may be enough to help winnow down the huge pile of possible photos into a manageable amount (30 – 50 max per book).

Here are a five more tips on what I always look for.
1 – find a favorite picture that shows the subject smiling. It doesn’t need to be recent.

Jack swimming - one of his favorite things

2 – think about what defines them as a person. Focus on the happy things. In this sample book, Jack is swimming (and smiling). Perfect. You can fill a few pages in the book with action shots of hobbies, travel, or other important things.

Grandpa Jack Sample page 33 – Jack was an avid gardener for many years. His home had amazing gardens that he loved to maintain. But as his memory fades, he’s not as clear about when they sold their house (almost a decade ago) and moved into a retirement community. I didn’t want to include upsetting subjects, so I focused on his more recent gardening work, and the annual trip to Sherwood Gardens. We didn’t include any pictures that might trigger the “where am I and when can I go home?” conversation.

4 – Include family. You can mix eras in a page or a two page spread. For example, include photos of both (now adult) children and grandchildren. However, keep the captions clear and try not to go back and forth too often. In this case the beach is a unifying theme, and it’s the subject with two generations of children. The captions continue the larger story that was on the facing page.

Alice Beach Sample Page

5 – Only place a few pictures per page. Make it easy on the eyes to stay on the page. Keep lots of negative (white) space and big text in an easy font (I use Georgia a lot). I also increase the line spacing a bit, and use shorter paragraphs to help eyes from getting lost in the text.

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