Tom felt the weight of a baseball gripped in his sweaty palm from inside the thick leather fold of his baseball glove, and suddenly he was back on the pitcher’s mound. He took the ball in his other hand, running his thumb across the red laces and saw it flying toward the other team’s star batter. “Strikeout!”

A man shares happy memories, triggered by touching a physical reminder.

For a person living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, the sense of touch can trigger memories in a way that other forms of communication cannot. To stimulate tactile memories for a family member living with dementia, first figure out what items may hold special significance for that person. Did your loved one play a sport? An instrument? Spend a lot of time in the kitchen? The garden? The workshop? Then collect relevant items in one location so they’re easy to pull out when that person needs to be calmed or comforted.

The memory “box” can take a number of forms—maybe a basket, an inexpensive plastic container with snap-on lid, a designated shelf or drawer, or a shoebox for smaller items. Putting the box together could be a fun, intergenerational activity for your family. Enlist the help of the grandchildren to decorate the box or contribute to the collection.

A Memory Box

The memory box can include any item that might mean something to the person living with dementia:

  • A baseball glove
  • Gardening gloves
  • Different types of fabric
  • A favorite article of clothing
  • A trophy
  • Trip souvenirs
  • A family heirloom
  • A stuffed animal
  • A musical instrument

Or, you may want to get creative and create themed memory boxes with items relating to a specific experience:

Trip to the Beach Memory Box:

  • Sea shells
  • Pan filled with sand, large enough to place feet in
  • Dried starfish
  • Beach towel
  • Sun tan lotion

Nature Walk Memory Box:

  • Leaves
  • Tree bark
  • Flower petals
  • Pine cones
  • Acorns
  • Rocks
  • Pot of soil (particularly if the person likes gardening)

Have the person living with dementia hold each item and encourage that person to share what that object brings to mind. You can talk about how it feels—bumpy, smooth, fuzzy, hard—and what memories the person associates with it.

The possibilities for what you might place in a memory box are endless. Use your creativity to create a memory-stimulating collection of items customized specifically to the person living with dementia.

3 thoughts on “Create a Memory Box to Help Trigger Memories

  • Christi Speer

    I would love to learn more. I work in and early to mid Dementia unit.

  • Jan

    Does this work when you want to change the memories the person is having? When she has a Luce today day she asks f
    Difficult questions like
    Where’s dad
    Where’s my dog sooty
    Where’s my brother
    Do I have a drivers license
    How come I am not in my house

    Can I redirect yo a happier memory with the memory box?

  • Tamara Harvey

    I watched a clip of a baby watching herself in a video. She giggled and koo d and even gave the screen a smooch. People with Alzheimer’s might just get a great kick too.

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