The Power of Photos
by G G Collins Copyright 2020
For regular readers of my blog, you know a friend was diagnosed with early onset dementia. She wanted to cope with this as best she could on her own terms, and that’s how it should always be. Even if you can’t see your family member or friend, you can still keep in touch through letters, however one-sided the communication is.
It’s one of those things where simple is better. Use a larger font to facilitate reading and tell straightforward stories. As dementia progresses, a patient’s interest in reading lags and eventually letters have to be read aloud by a family member or nursing staff. Photos are extremely useful. It’s best if you move in close and concentrate on one object or person.
Laurence Aëgerter, a French visual artist in Amsterdam developed the “Photographic Treatment.” She discovered that images could evoke memories that may go back as far as the teenage years. Earlier memories seem to be easier to recall. She made the photos available without charge so that everyone could use them. Here is an example.
These vertical black and white photos with similar images can lead to memories and invite conversation.
In one encounter, Aëgerter showed a patient a photo of a cat and kitten. Up until this time, he had been silent, but something about this picture elicited a response. For five minutes it was as if he didn’t have dementia. For more reading on this:
A photographic treatment for people with dementia
With this in mind, choose photos of your loved one, places you’ve been together. As time goes on the photos need to grow larger and more focused on the subject as having other objects in the picture can be confusing. An album of the patient’s life can also provide for stimulation of memories.
Perhaps the most important observation Aëgerter discovered in her research and interaction with patients: “I realized we should never underestimate people who are sick.” That’s important. We should resist infantilization. While someone may not be able to speak, they may understand more than we realize.
For other ways to use photos: