Follow
Share

Has anyone had an experience with old family photos causing depression in those with dementia? I created a memory book of photos and showed them to my mom. I think it depressed her and made her realize how much she had forgotten.

I’ve made lots of books for my mum. She cried when I gave her the first one, but I think it’s because she was happy, mixed with a little sadness. I tend to mix old and new, to blur the lines a little.

she now has 24hr care at home, and the carers are so grateful to be able to share her memories with her. But as we know, everyone reacts differently. Funnily my mum is super negative normally, but the books bring joy, instead of negativity which is a blessing in itself!

Hope your mum grows to love her book x
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Sharoncz63
Report

I doubt the book of photos, alone, could make her depressed. I think it was a fine work you did creating the memory book for her. It may have brought back memories of happy times long past or even sad times she had to endure. Because of dementia, it might have shown her things she does not remember and perhaps you had the experience of trying to remind her (if you yourself remembered or knew what was pictured).

In any case, I don't believe it harmed her. I wouldn't expect her to retain any memories for long, if indeed she remembered anything from the pictures. It's quite likely she won't even remember what you showed her, but it was a loving gesture from you. And I imagine she recognized your kindness and care for her, even if the mementos themselves have now been forgotten again.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Dosmo13
Report

Msblcb: I can understand why your mother would be upset to see photos. Perhaps she is saddened at what was. Hugs sent.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Llamalover47
Report

It actually affects me more.
I hate looking at pictures of how strong and vibrant my mother was.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Exveemon
Report

Thanks for mentioning this! I thought going through photo albums was the right thing to, but while mom didn’t/doesn’t hate it, she doesn’t recognize nearly anybody so it’s just a Dud activity for her. Meanwhile I also feel like I’m being stabbed by knives looking at these photos, it’s so painful. So I just dropped it but wondered what I was doing wrong.

Last time I visited we flipped through a photo book of Quaint Villages of England. This worked well for both of us so I’m thinking about bringing a pleasant photo book or old National Geographics for each visit. We’ll see how long this works …

Good luck everybody!
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Madisoncuckoo7
Report

I find it painful................like being stabbed with a knife, especially when the person is deceased. I opened my wedding album and realized that 95% are deceased, I put it away for the next generation, if they're even interested. My photo album now is just my memory where I often visit those I loved (or, if I'm lucky, I will meet up with. them in a dream)..........."Memories, light the corners of my mind; misty watercolor memories, of the way we were."
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to ConnieCaretaker
Report

Did your mother remember anyone at all? if she did, then praise her. music is also helpful, from their era.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to AngieGuido74
Report
Msblcb Sep 20, 2022
She knows me, my husband and my brother. She does recognize her grandfather but does not remember anyone else. I have decided to take some of the great advice and take National Geographic and other photos, of flowers, as a way to spend time. She loves gardening. That is less emotional for both of us.
(1)
Report
Once my mother's dementia set in, she started HATING family photos and asking me to remove them from her apartment in the ALF. Which I did. At first it made me angry that she didn't want any reminders of her past or her family or her life around her, and then it just saddened me. Eventually she had NO photos anywhere in her room at the Memory Care, except one of her great grandson which did bring her happiness. That was it. All the rest of the photos are here at my house; all the albums and boxes of photos from her and dad's life together.

If you can't beat em, join em. That's the motto, so go with it. I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a person with dementia, so it's best to just go WITH what they want and not argue.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to lealonnie1
Report
MarijaneBL Sep 20, 2022
Have you thought about a picture of flowers or a restful scene, perhaps bought at a thrift store. If she doesn't care for it, you can just give it back to the thrift store.
(1)
Report
My mother had MCI with recent memory problems. Sometimes she enjoyed old family photos but sometimes they made her sad as she wanted to call or visit someone she didn't remember was dead. On the other hand, the old photos published in the local papers or online brought her a lot of pleasure as she recounted tales of shopping or attending events with friends.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to TNtechie
Report

I stopped showing my mother photos because they made her sad and confused. She no longer knows how to process those memories and feelings. She lives in the present moment now. She no longer worries about the future nor regrets the past. In a strange way she is more content than she's ever been. Good luck to you.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Burnoutgirl
Report
Msblcb Sep 20, 2022
Well, I do not want to ever go through what my mom is experiencing but I would love to not worry about the future or regret the past. That just sounds wonderful. My goodness...what would I think about if I did not have those two topics! Blessings to you!
(1)
Report
We displayed, at mom's funeral, a group family photo that is over 25 years old. I personally, hate it and don't even have a copy. She LOVED it. IDK why, because within a year of its taking 3 divorces had taken place and 'that family' was fractured and no longer even a 'family'. Also, it was placed so high on the wall that she could not bend her neck to even see it.

I was the family archivist and tried to keep the collages of the families up to date, but failed pretty epically. She also couldn't see those, so I stopped trying to keep them updated. She loved Christmas cards with pics on them and I punched holes in those, put them on rings and kept them 'organized' as a thing she could show friends. These were updated and she loved them.

The only person she refused to have a picture of was her much-hated SIL.

Some people love to reminisce and enjoy going through old photos. Some don't care and don't want reminders of how good they 'used to' look.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Midkid58
Report
Msblcb Sep 20, 2022
I love the idea of the Christmas Cards. I have a huge box that I keep in her room and we often go through them. She really loves it but does not seem to open the box unless I am there to help her. A ring would be great. She might enjoy them on her own. Thank you for the idea!!
(1)
Report
See 1 more reply
Yes! All of my mother's siblings had passed and looking at them only made her sad. I know people always say "make photo books" but honestly, like everything else in dementia care, you have to do what works for your person.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to PaniniSandwich
Report

I gave my grandmother a large picture of her as a baby with all her extended family. In her AL home no one could touch it. She didn't know that all these people had passed on but she treasured it. I sometimes was able to use photos to settle my mother who had vascular dementia so bad that she considered my father a threat and I feared she might hurt him. When I was called to defuse situations I would get out old photo albums and it would calm her. Guess you can't tell how a person will react.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Sharon44
Report

Our family got the digital frame for my mother with mixed dementia plus Alzheimers. We put a mix of recent and old pictures of family members and events on it. The first several times she watched the whole way through, often asking who is that? She was so happy to see the pictures. Then after a couple of days she unplugged it. Since the frame would silently loop through the pictures for hours, mother decided to unplug it. She is worried about the cost of electricity. She tells us the the PG&E man called to tell her she uses too much electricity. So, she will not use the frame.
I am sure that she could not remember most people in the pictures and was wondering why the frame changed pictures. She has not up to speed on technology. Never used a computer. She wants to know how those pictures and articles get in the cell phone. Mom is 93, has cataracts, and needs bright light to see clear & read. As someone else mentioned, it may frustrate her to not know why the pictures keep changing in the frame? Best of luck!!
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to DILCareblazer
Report

I've had better results with "neutral" images, i.e. babies, animals, vintage cars, old movie stars. The family of one of my client had brought her a framed 8 x 10 of her late husband. Her reaction was to lay it face-down on her bookshelf. Hmmmm?
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to DrLokvig
Report

My mother had a picture of my father in frame in her memory care room. As her dementia advanced one day I asked her if she remembered her husband (I called him by name) and she said "no." I don't think she minded having his picture around, but it didn't mean the same thing to her. She was an artist and also had her paintings hanging on the walls of her room. She didn't remember that she had painted them. But the good thing about having personal items in the room is that it shows the staff what kind of a person she was. And also, the pictures are familiar, even if their meaning is no longer the same. She had an old album of my father's family pictures and started to rip it up. I took it away and sent it to his family. It's best not to have valuable old family pictures where they can be damaged. Copies are good enough.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to NancyIS
Report
DrLokvig Sep 20, 2022
I always urge families to keep the originals and give her the copies, not just photos but also jewelry or anything else that me be precious to you.
(0)
Report
I do not show her old family photos. I focus on photos of what is currently happening.
I set my Mom up with a Google Nest Photo Frame. I linked it to a Google shared album with over 500 photos of her two children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The picture on her screen changes every 30 seconds. I purposely did not include photos of my late-father so not to increase her grief and her longing to hold him and be held by him.

She loves it and watches it for hours every day. It keeps her updated on how all the kids are doing, what they're doing, how they look and how all the siblings and cousins are interacting.

It gives her happy topics to talk about on the phone or when we meet. It keeps her involved and relevant.

My brother's family and my family text pictures amongst ourselves pretty much every day of cool things or routine things that our kids and grandkids do. Every day I upload the best pictures remotely to my Mom's Photo Frame, and they automatically enter the rotation of her display, giving her more pleasure, more connection, more things to be happy and proud of.

I do not include photos from before my father passed away four years ago.

I include many pictures of family members interacting with her during visits to her assisted living and now to the skilled care facility where she lives.

The pictures remind her that she is still loved and relevant, and is still a part of the current history-making of her family of which she is the matriarch.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to dhalpern
Report

Oh yes! When my dad came to live with me I brought all his old photos here because I thought he’d enjoy seeing them. When I’d bring some out he was able to recall a lot of who was in them but he’d get a very pained look and I could tell he wasn’t enjoying them. I could see it made him very depressed to see them.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Dizzerth
Report

Hello Msblcb. I'm sorry you did something precious for your mom and it did not bring joy, as you had hoped. Your intention was sweet and compassionate.

I put together an activity for my beautiful mom thinking she would love to go through photos so we could put a "look book" together. After the first few photos I could tell she was quite discouraged and overwhelmed.

I was sad because it was yet another "loss" we had to walk through. I also felt badly because, in an effort to bring her joy, I caused distress.

Instead, I have been putting photos in a "look book" and labeling the photos. My mom has really enjoyed looking at the book. The labels help her recognize our friends and family.

I also learned to not ask my mom if she remembers anyone. I simply say, "Look! It's so-and-so. I remember when..."

I don't think it matters if she shares her memories or she listens to mine. The point is, my mom is blessed by seeing the number of people who love her.

It looks like you are doing great. What a sweet blessing you are.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to VVinAshland
Report
Msblcb Sep 20, 2022
Thank you. It is certainly trial and error, I try something and then course correct when it does not work, I was working on a big memory box for her and have ditched that idea,..but will keep trying. Thank you for the wonderful words of encouragement.
(1)
Report
Another day might they make her happy?
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to CaroleOR
Report

Try upbeat music from her time instead.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to NYCmama
Report

My dads subject of choice is WWII. He loves to talk about his time in the military and I found a bunch of old photos I put together for him.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Babs75
Report

As kind as you are to do this I can see how it could cause distress. I would pass on this unless it is asked for.

Pictures such as this generally represent youth and a time when life was not burdensome. If you add the memory factor it can create confusion. Hope you arrive at a solution best for you both.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Riverdale
Report

yes we have a bunch of old family photos in my mom's room at memory care and most of the time she doesn't think to look at them but if i bring her one to look at, it sparks her memory and she is briefly happy then she starts to get sad, asks where dad is, etc. (he died 8 years ago). it's terrible to say but she is happier when she doesn't remember her past. she recognizes me about half the time but most of the time she thinks i'm her sister. recently i had a visit where she didn't say much and it was the first time i suspected she didn't know who i was at all, as she typically would be very chatty. but that visit was also the calmest and most content i've ever seen her. when she knows me, or thinks i'm her sister, it grounds her in her past but also gives rise to complaints and sadness about where she is and what she misses.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to cignal
Report

Instead of showing her old photos of people and places she is "supposed to" remember, can you show her new photos of relatives and friends? We take tablet to my MIL in LTC with mild/moderate dementia and short-term memory loss and she really enjoys us talking about that. Also we find funny animal or people videos on YouTube to watch together.

My 100-yr old Aunt with advanced dementia watches Disney or Pixar animated movies with the closed captions on. Especially if they are musicals. We started her on "oldie" movies from her era, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Music Man, Singing in the Rain, and now she'll even enjoy Paw Patrol: The Movie. She can't follow very complex plots, or tolerate too much violence or sadness. She doesn't like to listen to music for some reason and I think it is about her comprehension, not her hearing. I wish you success in finding a "sweet spot" of entertainment and connection with her!
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Geaton777
Report

What works for one person may not work for your loved one.
Find other things, objects, pictures, music that she likes.
My Husband was never interested in looking at photos or music. Put on a Ball game (had to be Bears or Cubs) and he would sit and watch for hours.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Grandma1954
Report

Absolutely. That suggestion NEVER works for my mother.

I would show her a picture, and she would immediately tell me to stop, because they made her so sad.

I eventually gave up.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to cxmoody
Report
Msblcb Sep 15, 2022
Thank you!
(0)
Report
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter