Is it a good idea to show dementia sufferers old family photos?

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by waterwoman, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. waterwoman

    waterwoman Registered User

    Jun 12, 2007
    Mum doesn't get stimulated by many things any more and I read somewhere she might enjoy looking at old family photos. But there are many of you with practical experience who may feel differently. My mother is moderate approaching late stage dementia. Maybe only photos of the living and avoid photos of the dead?
  2. Kathleen

    Kathleen Registered User

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Sussex
    My Mum loved to go through the old photos, she remembered so much from looking at them.

    She is now in late stage, but occasionaly will recognise her parents and grandparents and is really happy to look at them.

    Sadly, the modern ones....the last thirty years or so....mean nothing to her now, although the time spent looking through any photos old or new is a lovely chance to interact with her.

    I don't think she even realises who is alive and who isn't as before her speech got so bad, she would refer to them in either the past or present tense, we never corrected her, just went along with whatever she said.

    As my Uncle and I are interested in our family history, we have learned a lot from her...........mind you some of it is probably not too accurate!

    I would say give it a try, for both of you.

  3. MillyP

    MillyP Registered User

    Jan 5, 2007
    As Kathleen says, give it a try....I know from my experience with my Dad that it didn't help him at all and made him more confused...he recognised pictures of himself but seeing himself with either me as a baby or my brother totally confused him and in the end he was convinced he had more children then he thought and that made him feel angry...he kept saying,"I must have been a very bad man to have made all these children with different women":rolleyes: we couldn't convince him that he only had two children...he didn't remember any family members in the photos and it made no difference when we explained who they were:( can only try...some will like it others will be confused....:)
  4. Margarita

    Margarita Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    With my mother who is in the last stages , but on medication for late stages AZ .

    I show her photo of family members from the past dead or Alive , she'll say Oh that Anthony Oh thats you & smile and if see some one dead, she'll Just say's Poor thing .

    What thats saying On TP I use to read about a lot in the past .

    When you've seen on person with AZ you've only seen one .

    Just give it go :)
  5. Tender Face

    Tender Face Account Closed

    Mar 14, 2006
    NW England
    Hi there. Whilst I generally go along with a 'you can only try' philosophy (and always hope it works) you have touched a nerve with my own thoughts on 'edited highlights'. My mum's pretty 'early stage' (I think still?!) but has already done wholesale clear outs herself of photographs including her own wedding album ....

    I was 'hopping' recently (restrained myself from posting here) that a family member who visits mum on average twice a year had turned up to mum's with lots of photographic and even recently written memories of their childhoods. Now, Karen in a good mood would have said 'How thoughtful - she's even thought about long-term memory issues' ...... Karen in more cynical mode was furious - 'Some (a lot) of mum's childhood traumatised her ..... how dare anyone prompt to her to remember things best forgotten????'

    Maybe it's me got it wrong ..... but unless I could be sure mum's memory was selective (i.e. enjoy the 'good bits and don't trigger the bad' I am hugely cautious -about photos, conversations even .....). Very much a go-with-the-flow and let mum dictate .....

    I'm sorry if that comes across as negative, just to say it would appear your concerns parallel some of my own .... although our mothers are at different 'stages' .....

    I hope you do try it - and mum gets some pleasure from it ...... :) Would love to hear how you get on ....

    Love, Karen (TF), x
  6. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    SW Scotland
    I think it depends so much on the person's family. John comes from a very close-knit family, they had huge family hopidays, and even now his cousins keep in touch with me, much more so than my own family.

    When he was in the early stages we worked together on his family history, and he even enjoyed days with me at the Scottish Records Office in Edinburgh. He was so proud of the books I compiled for him, complete with photographs.

    Now of course the history part is meaningless to him. He occasionally pull out the books and asks if I have seen them! But he does still enjoy looking at the photographs, and they take him back to happy days.

    I think his life would be the poorer without them.
  7. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    SW Scotland
    P.S. Point of interest:

    When we went to the Records Office, I discovered that if I signed John in, I could get in free as his carer (it was £17 for a day). If I signed myself in, I still had to pay for John, even though I was the one doing the research, and we were only using one terminal. It's all online now, so it's irrelevant. Just thought it was strange.
  8. connie

    connie Registered User

    Mar 7, 2004
    You can only try. Lionel used to enjoy looking at photographs.

    I put all his family ones in an album, and spent many hours putting names to faces.
    All out photos together I put in several albums, always careful to label everything.

    Now Lionel has photographs all around his room and does not know who anyone is.
  9. jc141265

    jc141265 Registered User

    Sep 16, 2005
    I think Dad's reaction to photos is a symptom of his type of that he doesn't seem to understand what photos are...u can put them right in front of him and he doesn't even look at them, very hard to get him to look at a photo at all...a bit like trying to get a cat or a dog to look at a photo...its not that the people in them are meaningless it is as if they don't click that the photo is of people...or they can't see the 2 dimensional image

    Other more typical alzheimer's sufferers seem to not have this problem and can still 'see' photos like normal people and even if they don't remember who the people are in the photos, they know that they are photos and that they are photos of people
  10. connie

    connie Registered User

    Mar 7, 2004
    Nat, your explanation of how your dad sees, or rather does not see, photographs now makes it so clear what is happening to Lionel.

    You are so right. Thanks,
  11. Kathleen

    Kathleen Registered User

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Sussex
    Interesting point about the way some sufferers don't seem to "see" photos.

    I wonder if it is similar to the way some sufferers fail to recognise their own reflection in a mirror.

  12. Taffy

    Taffy Registered User

    Apr 15, 2007
    Hi, my mum enjoys looking at old photos provided she is in the right frame of mind,clearly with her, certain photos will trigger memories and surprisingly she will give you a little history, not always accurate, but what does it matter anyway. I personally have found that it hasn't caused any stress. You could always give it ago, play it by ear and take it from there, hopefully it will be enjoying.Best Wishes, Taffy.
  13. Áine

    Áine Registered User

    My dad could enjoy looking at photos and could chat about them after he seemed to have lost the ability to do anything or remember anything else. Most things are worth a try ........... it seems hard to predict what's going to be positive sometimes.
  14. waterwoman

    waterwoman Registered User

    Jun 12, 2007
    Type of Dementia where you don't see photos

    Nat I have sent a private message to you in case you don't want to answer on the forum. My Mum is exactly the same as your Dad with photos, exactly to a T. Can you let me know what kind of dementia your Dad is suffering from? My Mum has not been diagnosed.
  15. Brucie

    Brucie Registered User

    Jan 31, 2004
    near London
    I think it is fine to show photographs, but only to show them... that is, not to say "come on... you must remember old Uncle Bill, you were inseparable!", when the person clearly has no idea who "Uncle Bill" was.

    Photos can be used to divert, but not in such a way that it highlights memory loss, in my opinion.

    Recognising people and places in photos is not important; it may be good if the person just likes looking at them for their own sake.
  16. CraigC

    CraigC Registered User

    Mar 21, 2003

    I remember reading a leaflet that summed up dads early dementia very well. It discussed the issue of misplacing keys, something we all do. The subtle difference it made was that we all lose keys, but someone with dementia may pick up the car keys one day and not realise what they are for. I use this example all the time when trying to explain Alzheimer’s to people.

    Dad gets very occasional recognition now so photos can still be stimulating. But as Bruce recommends letting dad lead works a lot better then constantly saying you must remembers xyz. Dad's perception of everything in the world has changed so I'm not sure he particularly enjoys looking back - I can almost see him getting agitated trying to work it all out sometimes, that's the time to back off. He definitely lives for the moment now.

    I'm not pretending to understand how someone's mind works when they have Alzheimer’s, these are just my observations.

    Kindest Regards
  17. Zadok

    Zadok Registered User

    Mar 15, 2006

    You are so right Craig, I like the key example.
    Sometimes I can see mum is annoyed because I'm expecting her to remember.

    I was interested in this thread because a while ago now I'd tried looking at photos and mum just didn't want to know. She said it made her feel sad. I feel a bit like that when I look at old photos or else hugely (freudian slip) embarrased when I look at photos of myself looking rather different from how I hope I look!

    Anyway today I popped an old album in my bag of baby photos of me when I went to the home. Great success. Mum enjoyed looking for a few minutes, put them down but returned to them several times with interest. I never know what to talk about when I visit and nor does mum! I told her who was in the pics in a (I hope) non confrontational way saying things like 'gosh look at x in that hat' and 'oh look I'm holding teddy' rather than asking her which I'd probably been guilty of before.
  18. Splat88

    Splat88 Registered User

    Jul 13, 2005
    My sister and her husband visited us this weekend, and my brother in law is a keen photographer.

    I got all Mary's old photos out and they passed a happy few hours admiring the poses ( she was quite a glamour puss in her past, and John was good at making her laugh with some outrageous comments on her shapely legs!!!!)

    I would only say that I strongly suggest we all put dates and names to our own photos now while memory is good, as it was a real shame that we didn't know who was in half the pictures. Because she's the youngest of 8, her siblings are much older and my husband only really recognised a few of her sisters and their children. Some of them she knew, some not, but we couldn't really be sure. After all, she didn't even recognise us in our wedding photo, though she did recognise her husband and nieces!!!

    The sad part was that the next day, she had no recollection at all, a fact that surprised my brother in law, but of course didn't surprise me one bit!!!!
  19. Carolann

    Carolann Registered User

    Apr 19, 2006
    My mum died of this horrible illness 8 months ago. During the last 6 months of her life she was in a Nursing Home and how she loved her little photograph album in her handbag. She took the album out everyday and showed the photograps to everyone, the carers saw it time and time again. There would be biscuits and chocolate squashed between the pages but Mum got so much pleasure from those photographs even though some of the time she did not recognise people in them.

    On some of my visits I used to ask her to get the album so I could have a look at the photographs and she would say ' No, I have already looked at them once today'!!!!!

    In my Mums case she never got distressed by looking at the photographs, but I do understand that this would not be the same for everyone.

    As I said my Mum died 8 months ago but I still browse TP, and sometime post if I can be of any help. I also get this terrible knot in my stomach sometimes when i read posts that remind me of what Mum and the family went through with this horrible illness.

    My heart goes out to all sufferers and carers.
    Take Care.
  20. IT_man

    IT_man Registered User

    Dec 10, 2006
    No personal experiences but..

    there has been research on this - see here

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