The True Value of a Memory Box

I often get enquiries about our memory boxes, but on occasion people ask whether they come pre-populated, which seems like a very bizarre question. As there seems to be some confusion over how to use them, I thought it’s worth explaining their purpose and just how invaluable they can be when used correctly.

Find’s memory boxes are designed for outside bedroom doors – think of them as an alternative to a front garden or window box. A key purpose of the product is to enable residents to recognise their own bedroom door and feel a sense of ownership, comfort, belonging and satisfaction when finding their own personal space. The items included should give a very clear message of “what’s important to me”.

However, that may not always be as easy as you’d think. It’s the year 2022 (in reality) but each resident may be living in a totally different time period as a result of their dementia. What’s even more important to remember is that the time period will change as their dementia progresses, therefore the items that populate their memory box will need updating over the months to come. Think about yourself– your family, friends, work life, hobbies and major events of today and then ask yourself, what were things like ten years earlier and ten years before that? There are bound to be significant changes, and how can a person recognise something that in their “time period” hasn’t yet happened?

It is important not to make any assumptions when helping a resident decide what to include in their Memory Box. Someone in their 80’s may have been married for 60 years – but not necessarily happily (as divorce in the past was very much frowned up); they may have had one job all their lives, not necessarily because they loved it – more likely they didn’t have a choice (some will still remember the days when a job was for life). Other residents may have had more than one family – modern day living – which family do they associate with? Always aim to include items that clearly have positive and happy memories.

The key benefits of using the memory box:

  • An orientation aid to help a person find their bedroom independently (giving a sense of satisfaction)
  • A reminiscence aid for staff and visitors to engage in conversation and interact with the resident (it may help to add a note about one item
  • in their collection explaining its relevance as a way to begin a meaningful conversation)
  • Additional benefits:
  • An orientation aid for other residents, but one that will act as a deterrent, helping them understand the room is someone else’s personal
  • space
  • Reminiscence items that can be seen and talked about with other residents who may express similar likes (or dislikes) and support the life story work of others

How to fill them (everything included should add value). Suggestions for consideration might include:

  • Era specific family photographs
  • Era specific mementos of public events (royal weddings, the Berlin Wall coming down, winners of the FA cup (local) or England in 1966)
  • Long cherished items – babies bootees, locks of hair, a wedding tiara
  • Items related to hobbies – games, knitting, sewing, gardening, shopping, DIY
  • Try to include personal items that relate to the senses and are relevant (ideas only) –
  • Perfume or aftershave bottles (remember Brut (for men) Charlie (for ladies),
  • Traditional shaving equipment – for the man who put great importance on his appearance (or was a barber!)
  • Favourite wrappers from chocolate bars or sweets for those with a sweet tooth
  • Ornaments of sentimental value – a crucifix, flowers, figurines
  • Sporting items – scarves, badges

A you can tell, the Memory Box has the potential to be a fantastic addition to any bedroom corridor if used effectively. When the resident, family members and care staff work together to create something that is truly meaningful, a Memory Box can be truly special. Just collecting all the different items for inclusion offer fabulous opportunities for reminiscing and help to understand what is really important to each resident. When you have created the first memory box and recognise the full value, you will want to continue – and therefore the reminiscence items included will evolve over time as new insights into a person’s reality become evident.