Scrapbooking brings family memories to life

Over the past year you may have read touching interviews with Formula 1 legend, Sir Jackie Stewart, talking about his wife’s experience with dementia. Many of those caring for a loved one with the condition will recognise his description of his wife’s flawless long-term memory but minimal short term memory.

When the three-time world champion launched his charity, Race Against Dementia, the cameras caught images of his family sharing memories with his wife using the 18 scrapbooks she compiled of their lives together – from her collating lap times on the track to daily family activities.

Debra Fox, Care UK’s  expert on dementia, said: “At the time, I was deeply struck looking at the news coverage about how Lady Helen had captured her family’s lives and the profound benefits those scrapbooks could offer to her family as they try to come to terms with her condition. Scrapbooks can help to spark conversations, re-enforce family bonds and enable carers to find out more about people’s interests and history.

“In a digital age, we take so many photographs but how many of us do anything with them? How many of us collect ticket stubs, postcards or keepsakes and mean to do something with them – but they still sit, gathering dust, in a drawer.”

The best thing about scrapbooking is that it can bring generations together to gather the raw material and plan the project. Debra said: “Let your family know that you are planning to scrapbook. People have memories, photos – digital and physical – and memorabilia you may have forgotten all about.

“Find a time and place where you can all be comfortable and meet up to see what you have. If you have a relative with dementia, it may be an idea to prepare them in advance by going over photos of your relatives and explain why they are coming.”

How to scrapbook:

  1. Look at the information you have and put it in to categories or chapters.

  2. Capture people’s memories and use them to caption the items with dates and details that will help you remember later. This is very useful when using the scrapbook later with a relative, especially those living with dementia.

  3. Choose a book that is large enough to see easily, as dementia diminishes people’s senses and a very crowded page may become difficult for them to decipher.

  4. Using a contrasting paper to back items will help them stand out clearly.

  5. Take your time and work with your loved one and other members of the family over a number of sessions to help reinforce those family ties and memories.

  6. Craft shops have a wide variety of scrapbook styles and themes. See if there are any that fit in with themes that have come out from your research, such as sport, travel or animals.

  7. Use page protectors – that way if tea is spilt, no one will be upset and no damage will be done.

Debra said: “There are lots of books available through your local library and scrapbooking sites on the internet, packed with ideas to get you started. What may start out as an activity to increase the wellbeing of one member of the family may become a life-long project for a young relative.”