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Memory Boxes

Note from author: (that’s me!) This highlights the importance to asking family/friends etc about memory boxes. My dad reminded me of The Very Hungry Caterpillar book and a video I was obsessed with “Rub a Dub Dub”!

Wow, great chat on Twitter yesterday about Memory Boxes, if you’d like to read the whole thing search #diversealz . But be warned, it’s about 46 pages long (I know because I just had to crop it all to fit to my blog)! It is well worth the read though.

However because I think what was talked about is so important I’ve tried to shorten it down for those of you with attention spans like mine….*squirrel* (points to those who correctly identify character and film).

The important things to take from this blog are;

  • The memory boxes can/should be tailor made to fit the person and can serve many purposes for those with dementia and it’s associated behaviours
  • It is NEVER too late to start a memory box!
  • The box should be made up of things that your caree can relate to (examples below)

First up we talked about what we would like our memory boxes to look like. Currently nan’s is a huge grey stack and store box, also containing our activity stuff. Ideally I thought a biscuit tin (nan loves biscuits!), but there is rather a lot that was discussed that could be put in. Casserole dishes, boxes in fancy paper, music box, sweet tins, (the TARDIS – my personal favourite!). I think the external appearance of the box is very important as it will attract caree and others to look inside, so…what would you like your memory box to look like? Comments below or on Twitter :). Nan has told me she doesn’t care what hers looks like, just an empty box-guessing we’re not having a good day so will come back to it!

We had quite an in depth discussion about food. Wrappers, adverts, pictures and recipes of foods that prompt memories (especially the smells and taste-smell is, along with music one of the best ways of triggering memories). So foods that were suggested; Tree top orange juice, apple muffin, pear drops, gypsy tart, Roses, Quality Street (great for Christmas memories), Milk Tray, Coca-cola, Rice Krispies, Condensed milk, carnation milk, camp coffee, bisto, chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, cheese pie & chocolate pudding (!?), sherbert fountain, spangles, Marathon, apple pudding/fritters/yorkshires, Spam, ideal milk, maggi cubes, baked beans, bournville chocolate, Ovaltine, Horlicks, Milo, Bournvita, pick ‘n’mix, traditional bread pudding with currants, cream soda, Junket & banana custard, lucazade. Ashamed to say I haven’t heard of quite a lot of these things, not sure if it’s regional differences or age. I’d have to have Um Bongo, Capri Sun (who didn’t try and pierce the hole without taking the straw off the back?) Dr Pepper, Sunny D, Reese’s, Marmite, Pom Bears and BN biscuits (the annoying advert? BNBN duh duh duh duh duh BNBN duh duh duh duh…etc). I still remember the Tizer advert from SMTV days “I’m red, I’m red, I’m Tizer Head…” Nan has told me what a cheese pie is and told me she loved condensed milk during the War, as it was used as a substitute. Nan also informed me that her mum liked carnation milk but she didn’t and her dad liked camp coffee but she couldn’t stand it. She enjoyed Spangles and would be happy to never see another piece of SPAM again! What foods evoke memories for you? Comments please!

There was also an in depth part about music. Which I was chuffed about because I always have my ipod on, and nan has been singing along more and more. Great quote from the chat to reflect this “music can define the time, social groups and evoke the strongest memories”. Particularly for nan is Perhaps-Doris Day, Grease is the word-Frankie Valli, Consider Yourself-Oliver, Whistle While You Work-Snow White. There has also been a news article on the importance of music for those with dementia; http://guardianlv.com/2013/06/dementia-miraculous-music-program-uses-ipod-to-bring-back-memories-video/. During the chat were mentioned; ‘Gigi – I remember it well’, Andre Rieu, Fleetwood Mac, Do-re-mi, Falling in Love, Elvis Presley, South Pacific, Glen Miller, Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, country music; Bellamy Brothers, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, LeAnne Rymes, Lynn Anderson, Billy Jo Spears, Kenny Rogers, musical soundtracks, classical such as Pachelbel, Nat King Cole, Donny and Marie, The Smithes, Three Wheels on My Wagon, Beach Boys, Chatanoogachuchu, Ghanian style music that has become really popular and one song real hit at mo..in US too – Antenna. So clearly from the suggestions you can see why keeping it personalized is so important. Some research was posted during this part of the convo that shows music can help with anxiety, which is prevalent with dementia; you can see that here: http://bit.ly/12zkxKI .It is important to realise that not all people of the same age like the same music, so you should always make the memory box person centered with a few pieces of music that “created waves”. Garland, Astaire, Kelly also keep nans toes tapping. We have just been through this list: http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/best_songs-1940s.html and nan could remember most of them and enjoyed listening to them back on Youtube, singing along with Chatanoogachoochoo! I’d have to have my old mans a dustman as I remember grandad singing it a lot. And of course I would have Mcfly, Westlife (the first band I truly loved), My Chemical Romance (through my rebel stage of teenage years) and Disney (eternal love). Which songs/albums had great prevalence in your life? Comments below or on Twitter please!

Next we moved on to fashion. I drifted away during this part, fashion is not my things at all. But jelly sandals, leggings and fluro tops seemed to be a big part of my childhood so maybe a sample of those materials and a scrap from an old summer school dress. Nan has a wonderful coat that should go in her box, I never saw her out of it as a child, but I must find out what she used to wear. Scarves were a popular answer, lace, handbags, shoes (which could be linked back to dancing and music), red stilletoes, red patent shoes with bow. It was also mentioned how good gloves are for evoking memories, as they retain the shape of a person’s hand, caps (work or leisure), ties – specially club/school ties.

Brief discussion on books (definitely starting to need that TARDIS!). I would have to add Harry Potter, Wind in the Willows, I Saw One Cow Go Running By, The Naughtiest School Girl, The Disney books I had that had musical buttons, Milly Molly Mandy (the first “proper” book I read in Year 3), The Magic Key! Nan can’t remember at the moment what she liked to read but she has mentioned in the past Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, she says she prefers older type books like Emma, Sense and Sensibility etc. Also mentioned; The Little Prince, My Naughty Little Sister, Mills and Boon, Andre Gide, Great Expectations, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Villette, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ama Ata Aidoo. Magazines such as Drum. ‘To Sir With Love’ book and film song by Lulu.

Other suggestions for things to put in the Memory Box include; history, culture, lifestyle. Old car manuals, gardening mags, radio Times, photo’s/memorabilia of pets e.g collars. Gloves/equipment etc all part of identity e.g gardening or driving gloves, biker gloves/goggles! Would place letters, tape of laughter especially of loved one. wrist/ankle bands of newborn babies and belly button clips, Any military aspect is good for men, war or service, think children’s programmes; Catweazle, puff ‘n’ stuff? Pinky ‘n’ Perky, model cars/boats…airfix, train sets, meccano, lego, knitting/crochet/sewing/kite/fishing memorabilia (nan would have to have something to remind her of dance/acrobatics). Newspaper reprints of historical/local interest.  Cups, trophies & medals (won) could work for both sexes. One lady said her mum’s singing trophies are her most precious things, which makes sense as it would remind her of a time when she felt she had worth. Mugs, beer glasses perhaps or too stereotypical? Walkman, cassette player and more modern items – gadgets… What else would you like in there? I’d have to have my old yellow and black walkman, purple Gameboy colour and arrows from archery.

**21/7/13 – Also added tonight was some hairstyles that may well evoke memories; jheri curls, pompadour, pixie, high top fade, choucroute, the Rachel, Sade, Mop Top, the Bob! As well as cosmetics etc such as Lanolin, Vaseline, Ponds Cold Cream, Vicks

Ideally a memory box should cover their whole life story, however this can of course be quite tricky as we all live such different roles throughout our lives. So just add as much as you think can/could help trigger memories.

There are of course some possible negatives, items that are chosen in advance could well mean nothing later on, and the things not remembered could end up acting as triggers and leave the caree frustrated and irritated.

However, these memory boxes can provide valuable information through time, that can aid conversations (much like the life journals). And anyone can add to them, children, parents, friends, neighbours. There are many stories to be told, and your caree may well enjoy being told that so and so put such and such in there because it reminded them of something you did together. Another point made was that these memory boxes are a lovely thing to leave behind, to help the carer/family left behind (and can act as a great prop to the life journal). If you find the right subject you can avoid negative behaviours, encourage memories and help your caree find things to talk about.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, Please do leave comments about what you would like in yours, may give me more inspiration for nans!

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