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The Power of Pictures: Using Photographs to Stimulate Memories

Woman holding photo

Photographs have the power to make us feel something. Whether the picture brings up pleasant memories or is from that awkward phase in your life, looking at the image reminds you of that time.

We all like to look back at old photos and reminisce on different times in our lives, but did you know that going through these pictures could benefit those dealing with memory loss?

May is National Photography Month – a month dedicated to all thing’s photography. To acknowledge the occasion, Oaks Senior Living is sharing the power of pictures and how you can use them to stimulate memories in individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Memories and the Mind


Oaks offers compassionate memory care and other senior living services to individuals and families throughout Georgia. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is memory loss. This can lead to confusion about time or place, having difficulty keeping up with current family happenings or even forgetting significant family members, friends, and loved ones.

While this development can be challenging, it has been found that long-term memories are easier for individuals with memory loss to recall than short-term ones. Very Well Health explains, “in its early stages, Alzheimer’s disease typically affects short-term memory. For example, this might involve forgetting what you ate for breakfast or repeating yourself in conversation.”

Actively calling upon long-term memories and past events can help to preserve these memories – enter the power of pictures!

Picture This, Imagine That


Alzheimers.net states, “the fact of the matter is that visual aids – especially photos – can help stimulate memories for someone with Alzheimer’s, and this holds true for people in the early stages of the disease as well as those with full-blown Alzheimer’s.”

Photos and other images work in two ways – keeping old memories alive and anchoring a person to the present moment. When an individual living with a memory impairment looks through old pictures, they are reminded of those special moments. This preserves the memory and keeps it at the forefront of their mind.

On the other hand, new and current photos are a great way to help a person stay in the moment. Because short-term memory is where many people with Alzheimer’s disease are impacted the most, these images help to remind them of the present.

How Can You Stimulate a Loved One’s Memories with Pictures?


Through our experience with person-centered Alzheimer’s and dementia care throughout Georgia, we have found ways to help residents reminisce about their past and incorporate these experiences into their care. A few tips for implementing the power of photos into your parent or family member’s lifestyle can include:

Display Pictures in Chronological Order


Displaying photos is great, but you can do so in a way that further helps the individual in your life keep track of their life history. Use the images to tell a story and display them in chronological order. By doing so, you are telling their story through pictures. This tip can apply to placing the photos in a scrapbook, photo album, or hanging them on the wall.

Make Pictures Large, Easy to See, and Include Labels


Looking at the photograph may be enough to stimulate the memories associated with the image, but on “bad” days, or as the disease progresses, your loved one may need more. Include a detailed description of the image that includes the date, place, and people featured.

Revisit the Pictures Often


The whole idea behind reminiscing is to be reminded of something. It is not enough to go through the photographs with your family member once and then move on. Instead, sit down with him or her often and travel back through their life story together.

At Oaks Senior Living, our Horizons memory care neighborhoods are designed to meet the needs of and support individuals living with a memory impairment. Through compassionate care and tiered programming, residents in our Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities benefit from a secure, comfortable environment that encourages independence and provides essential stimulation, no matter their level of cognitive functioning.

To learn more about memory care or the other senior living services we offer, contact a member of the Oaks Senior Living team or visit our website.

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