The Memory Book

Tanya Lee Howe's mother and her dog Amy

The Memory Book is meant to help keep straight the little things that can’t be retained in the short-term memory. It is not necessarily a journal, but instead a book of reminders for day-to-day living. For example, when my mother gets up in the morning, she writes in the time she woke up. She also writes that she had breakfast. The reason she writes this down is so that she knows she ate in the morning. Otherwise, she won’t eat anything because she thinks she ate already.

Another important topic she writes about is the days she takes a bath. If she doesn’t write it down, then she won’t take a bath because she believes she already took one.

Your parent may not be someone who enjoys writing, but he or she doesn’t have to write pages of prose, it can be done in point form, or by adding pictures with notes written below them, or by drawing some sketches. The important thing to remember is the book is for your parent so he or she should be encouraged to use it in a way that works for him or her. That being said, you will also need to work with your parent to help remind him or her to write in it.

If you are doing any changes of address or financial paperwork for your parent, work with him or her to document the information in his or her own writing in the Memory Book. This way, if any problems should arise later, or if your parent has any concerns, he or she can refer back to the Memory Book to see what was done.

Some other topics to encourage your parent to write about include:

  • Family events such as BBQs, grad ceremonies, a grandchild’s sports event.
  • Concerts or movies that your parent attends.
  • Book title and a short description of the book your parent is reading.
  • Weather.
  • Moods and feelings.
  • Visitors that come to your home or people your parent visits.
  • Activities such as going to a day program for seniors.
  • Going out for dinner.
  • Add pictures or interesting news articles.
  • Shopping lists.

You may also want to glue a small map of your neighbourhood into the back or front of the book so that if your loved one becomes lost, he or she may reference the map. A first name and phone number of the caregiver will also help if the book is lost, or if your loved one becomes lost.

Take the Memory Book everywhere your parent goes. My mother takes her Memory Book everywhere and writes in it no matter where we are. The book is a wonderful tool that helps reduce stress because it works as her short-term memory with a written record of things she would not be able to remember otherwise.

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